Local surfing great Mark Occhilupo.
Local surfing great Mark Occhilupo.

Occy scratching that itch

oSurfing

AUSTRALIAN surfing legend Mark Occhilupo wants just one final hurrah.

Having announced his retirement at the start of the year, Occhilupo has just nine events remaining on the world championship tour before he brings the curtain down on his illustrious career.

The Bilambil-based surfer disappointingly crashed out yesterday of the Men's WCT event in Fiji in the competition's second round.

He's left chasing the perfect ending.

One last memorable surf with his closest mates to savour and just one final contest victory to walk away a champion on top of the sport.

"The ultimate ending would be winning an event," said Occhilupo.

"It (career) has been great already and now I am just picking the right time to go surfing with my closest friends. It is those times I will remember.

"If I could only win one event, I wouldn't care which event it was, it could be anyone.

"But J-Bay (Jeffrey's Bay South Africa) is one I have never won and that is probably the one I would really like to win. I have so many family and friends there it would be a great way to finish."

While Occy announced this would be his last season, after just four events he is already having second thoughts.

"You know what, I might not retire," he said.

"It has been a pretty slow year for waves, even though Tahiti got pretty good in the end.

"I am going to see how the year pans out and make my decision at the end of the year but I am definitely having second thoughts."

Certainly the feeling amongst his mates on the tour is that Occy will go another year.

World No.2 Joel Parkinson, who surfs on the Gold Coast with Occy on an almost daily basis, believes the 'Raging Bull' will definitely go another season, perhaps more.

"He has got to set that record (first 40 year-old on tour)," said Parkinson.

"He has set so many records already that he may as well keep going and add another one.

"I heard in Tahiti that he has already booked accommodation for next year this far in advance so it sounds like he is coming back for another year.

"Occy is still surfing really good and can win contests so I reckon he should keep going another year."

Each event the surfers keep putting pressure on Occy to re- main on the tour.

He turns 39 next month and everybody wants him to set an unbelievable benchmark as the first 40-year-old to contest the world tour.

"My mates on the tour don't want me to leave just yet," said Occhilupo.

"They want me to go one more year, to make that benchmark of surfing at 40 and set it.

"I still think there could be a few other guys that will surf until they're 40."

Although he is almost twice the age of some of his opponents, Occy doesn't act like a father figure.

He is still young at heart, often instigating the fun and games on tour, and leaves the fathering for home where he has a young family to think about.

His wife Mae and two-yearold son Jay join him at most events on the tour, but even the smallest separation is hard for the devoted father.

"Jay is great. He is two now and I just talked to him on the phone then. It is so amazing he can talk on the phone now which is great and it makes being apart so much easier.

"He can get up on a little boogie board at the moment. He looks like he will be a goofy (footed surfer) but you never know."

Occhilupo's career has been a well documented rollercoaster which has only recently plateaued in a healthy medium.

A teenage hotshot in the 80's, Occhilupo suffered burn out and retired from the tour.

It wasn't until the mid 90's, after overcoming a battle with drug addiction, that Occhilupo returned to the tour, eventually capping his remarkable comeback by winning the world title in 1999.

"I wouldn't change anything," said Occhilupo. "Winning the world title in 1999 was just the ultimate.

"To win that world title in Brazil. It just felt really satisfying and relieving.



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