DAD, WHEN I GROW UP...: Surfing legend Mark Occhilupo with his son Jay at this week?s press conference
By JADE BILOWOL
THE tide will turn on surfing legend Mark Occhilupo's colourful 22-year career later this year when he forfeits the professional circuit to the upcoming crop of young surfers.
Affectionately known as Occy, the 38-year-old this week announced the 2005 season would be his last touring professionally full-time so he could cement his role as a family man in Kirra with wife, May, son, Jay and others expected to be on the way.
Following a coveted 1999 world title, 21 career victories and a troubled seven-year hiatus backed by a blistering comeback, Occy said the time was right to end his career with a bang.
"I've had a great career, I've don't all the things from when I was a grommet that I've wanted to do, that's why I'm calling 2005 my last year.
"I want to leave on a high note," Occy said.
"I decided this last year because Jay is growing up .?.?. I was going to say this last year but I felt I had some unfinished business."
At a press conference at Billabong's Gold Coast Headquarters on Tuesday, that saw Jay threaten to upstage his dad with his boisterous antics, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew reminisced the first time he laid eyes on a young Occy. "It blew people's minds how good he surfed," Rabbit said.
Rabbit also praised Occy's longevity and said he had set a example for the generations of surfers with his physical and mental resurrection that saw him emerge from the shadows to win the 1999 World Championship Tour.
After first stepping on to the ASP tour at 15 years of age, Occy shot to the top of the ASP rankings as a 17year-old before winning the world title in 1999.
Occy said he did not know what to expect of his final year but that "anything was possible".