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"I want to show that you shouldn't drag it out - you should go out with a bang, and my surfing is good enough at the moment to do that. I will be 39 this year and 40, next year so I just feel like it is a good time."
The 38-year-olds much publicized life has inspired three generations of surfers no part more than his physical and mental resurrection from out of the shadows to win the 1999 World Championship Tour. Born and raised in Kurnell, Sydney and now living on the Gold Coast with his beautiful wife Mae and toddler son Jay, Occy shot to the top of the ASP rankings as a 17-year-old and set performance standards that to this day have yet to be matched.
He finished the tour third, fourth and third respectively through 1984, '85 and '86 and a world title looked assured but his interest waned and in 1987 he walked away from pro surfing in a state of despair, ranked 9th. Throughout his non competitive years Billabong stood by Occy with Billabong founder Gordon Merchant the staunchest of supporters.
"The year Occy turned sixteen he insisted Billabong send him to try and qualify for the world professional surfing tour. I tried really hard to talk Occy out of going because he was so young and the tour in those days consisted of twenty five events and was extremely grueling," said Merchant. "Consequently by the time Occy turned twenty he was burnt out and lost interest in professional surfing. Why I personally backed Occy through this period of his life was because I knew the whole scenario and knew he needed a time out to reassess his life. There was no doubting his ability or determination once he was focused, he just needed someone to believe in him and give him that time."
In 1995, with the support of Merchant and legend surf film-maker Jack McCoy, Occy was granted a slot in the inaugural Billabong Challenge, a break-away competition where eight of the world best surfers were invited to do battle at a remote left hander in Australia's desolate North West. Displaying his powerful forehand attack at one of the heaviest waves in Australia Occy proved to the delight of his peers Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia and Rob Machado that he was back.
Occy then took his come-back to the epicenter of world surfing turning up in Hawaii to compete in the 1995 Pipeline Trials. Looking fit and focused he surfed through 11 heats to the main event final against Slater, finishing second to the former six times world champion. The amazing feat, achieved with the sheer surfing brilliance that still epitomizes Occhilupo today.
After two years on the WQS a triumphant Occy qualified for the 1997 World Championship Tour (WCT). In his first full WCT season in over a decade Occy finished runner-up to Slater and then went onto achieve his world title dream two years later.
"Winning my world title in '99 was paramount to my whole career, it was such a sanctifying feeling, coming back and achieving that, and I have been riding high on that ever since, it's 2005 now and I'm still going," said Occhilupo. "After my world title win, I have been right up there competing in the top 10, and I've just been riding on that high, it's what's kept me going."
"From the first stage of my career to the second stage, it was just all time, so fantastic, and I am just really looking forward to this year."
Loved for the powerful and pure lines he draws in the water and comedic antics on land the true surfing icon is the third longest employee of Billabong, the longest-SERVING team surfer and an integral part of the world's best surfing team. He will be sorely missed on the world tour but will still be appearing as a WCT wildcard at some of his favourite locations.
"Billabong, already have got me doing some really great ventures and I am looking forward to spending more time with my family," said Occy. "I am looking forward to doing a few wildcards next year for Billabong, at Jeffreys Bay and Mundaka, my two specialty events, so I won't be totally gone."
"I've got Jay and Mae, and we're bringing up a family, with hopefully some more on the way and I am looking forward to just settling down a bit."