• Professor Occy's 7 Lessons for Surf & Life

With Billabong’s Bloodlines project gaining massive momentum and the 13th annual Occy Grom Comp wrapping up a couple weeks ago on the Gold Coast, plus school about to start here, it got us thinking…A kid could learn a lot from a guy like Occ (Mark Occhilupo). I mean, guy’s kinda been through it all, the high’s, the low’s; rock-bottom to top of the world (1999 World Champ, baby). Eternally a grom himself (with his own, of course Jay Occy), there might not be a better professor of life and surf than Occy. So if he could teach ya 7 things that both translate between life and surfing…here’s what they might be:

1. Find Your Style; Run With It

Occy’s style wasn’t as polished or finesse-based as Tom Curren’s, nor was he as consistent as Tom Carroll. Rather, Occy’s style was somewhere in the middle of those two—and yet totally his own. Low to the deck, wide stanced and all-power, nobody quite turned in the pocket (maybe ever) like Oc. And that “Raging Bull” style was all his. It was an intentional maneuver to give a wave all he’s got, no matter what it looked like—it looked like Occy.

2. Stay in Shape

In the late-80’s to mid-90’s before one of the greatest comebacks in surf history—Occy put on a few lbs. In fact, the guy battled small-scale obesity, and it was because he was in a bad headspace, which can put you in a bad shape. But with some determination, good eating and a lot of hard work, Occ got it together, shed them calories and, well, won the world tour. See below.

3. Dare to Comeback

After taking the surf world by storm in the early 80’s as a passionate 17-year-old, finishing 3rd and 4th in the world, and winning a Pipe Masters and 2 OP Pro’s…Occy kinda fell off the map. He slipped down the ratings, got outta shape and nearly slipped into oblivion. But not quite. In 1997, Occy got back on tour and finished 2nd to Slater, 7th the following year and then in 1999: Won the world title. According to Rabbit Bartholomew: “One of the greatest comeback stories in the history of sport.”

4. Stay Off the Sauce

By sauce, Occy means keep anything toxic out of your body. Toxins mean: alcohol, drugs, ciggies, joints—if your pops told ya not to do it, it’s definitely for a reason. The Sauce also keeps you out of the water, wrecks your dawn patrols and pretty much deteriorates every good surfer.

5. Goofy IS Regular

When they say, “put your best foot forward,” that doesn’t necessarily equate with the left one. And as proven by Occy and a fair amount of other goofy footers, world-titles aren’t reserved for natural-foots. In fact, if you’ve learned to shred with your right-foot forward, use it to your advantage like Occ—most of the biggest, best tubes on earth are lefthanders (Pipe, Puerto, Chopes, Skeleton…)

6. Use Your Body to Your Advantage

Not tall and lean, or light-footed and nimble? Not to worry. Occy’s the stocky-man’s working class hero and used his frame to hack the hell out of waves like J-Bay on his backhand like none other. Or hoist himself over the ledge at Pipe and Teahupoo.

7. Dabble Outside of Surf

As in, explore your options. Yeah, surfing’s the best thing you could do with your time off-land, but on-land—it’s a big ole world. Explore it. Occy dabbled in acting in various surf flicks, plus the major motion pic North Shore, as well as on TV in Australia’s Dancing with the Stars. He’s also written and was featured in a couple books: Occy: A Surfer's Year and Occy: the Rise and Fall and Rise of Mark Occhilupo. So pursue non-surf endeavors, too. You just might surprise yourself with a talent you never knew you even had. (Occy’s wasn’t dancing.)

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*Photo inspired by a classic Dana Hills High School image of math teacher and Surf Coach Marc Degen