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Iconic surfer Mark Occhilupo retires after longest career

 

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LEGENDARY SURFER MARK ‘OCCY’ OCCHILUPO RETIRES – ICONS NEVER DIE!

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 December, 2007 : - - The longest career in professional surfing came to an end in the third round of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii on Friday as Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo officially retired as a professional surfer after being eliminated from his final event.

At 41, the legendary Australian surfer’s career has spanned a quarter century of professional surfing from the early 1980’s to today, including the greatest come-back in the history of the sport which culminated in him winning the 1999 ASP World Title. 

Occy, as he is universally known, has shared the world's waves with three generations of surfing greats including world champions Shaun Tomson, Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew, Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and Mick Fanning. A surfing 'wunderkind' from the blue-collar coastal town of Kurnell, in Sydney, Australia, Occhilupo first turned heads at the age of 11, joining the local boardriders club of Cronulla, where he was junior champion from ages 11 to 13.

His first foray into professional events occurred at the Beaurepairs Open in 1982 - a former world tour event staged at his home break. In 1983, the brash 17-year-old launched his full-time pro surfing career and entered the Top 16 for the first time. In 1984 he was credited with redefining the art of back-hand surfing when he won the Country Feeling Classic in epic surf at Supertubes in Jeffreys Bay and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the world.

In 1985 he faced some of the biggest waves ever ridden in the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii and emerged victorious at the age of 19.At the end of 1986, again ranked third in the world, a world title looked imminent. But in the years that immediately followed, Occy's brilliance took a detour into the shadows, crashing and burning at what appeared to be the peak of his career.  

A decade later, after months of sweat and a full year on the WQS he qualified for the World Championship Tour and in 1997 finished runner-up to Kelly Slater. Winning three of his 12 career event titles in 1999, Occy’s true destiny was fulfilled and he reached the peak of his profession, becoming the oldest surfer ever to win a world title at age 33.

For his final heat at Pipeline on Friday, the waves might have been less than ideal, the 9 a.m. timing might have been a little early, and the way in which he waved farewell wasn't what the surfing world wanted for him. But the beach reception was a fitting tribute for a man who has coloured the tour and the event for decades.

It was a tough exit to make, having led for 29 minutes of his 30-minute clash with Troy Brooks (Australia), Occy lost in the closing moments after Brooks secured the wave of the heat. He was carried up the sand on the shoulders of his friends and Billabong team-mates and landed on the stage where he addressed a throng of fans and media.

"I'm happy, sad, I don't know what to feel," said Occhilupo, "The reception on the beach was great - at this time of the morning it blows me away."It (the reality of retiring) hasn't hit yet. Maybe when I’m alone it might hit but I've kind of been preparing myself for it.

Those emotions come in waves and I haven't had that kind of a wave yet, but I'm sure it will happen. "There'll be no comeback. Well, never say never, but I'm officially retired from full time competition. I might accept a couple of wildcards but that's about it." 

As tributes flow in for Occy from around the surfing universe, his sponsors Globe have announced the release of an Occy Tribute Edition shoe and Billabong, whose shorts he wore in his Beaurepairs’ professional debut in 1982 and who have supported him through thick and thin throughout his career, have launched a website to honour him.

www.billabong.com.au/occy

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