Stab Magazine | OCCY & The Bird

OCCY & The Bird

“It seemed as if the pilot had no idea where G Land was. Taylor (Steele) was showing him on the map where he wanted to go and I was, like,“Oh my goodness!”. Then every time he spoke with the airport, I swear he sounded distressed and didn’t know what he was doing.” OCCY It’s just […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 13 minutes
Occy and the Bird

“It seemed as if the pilot had no idea where G Land was. Taylor (Steele) was showing him on the map where he wanted to go and I was, like,“Oh my goodness!”. Then every time he spoke with the airport, I swear he sounded distressed and didn’t know what he was doing.”


It’s just the way you’d expect superstar Occy to arrive on a surf trip to Grajagan. The surf is eight to 10 feet and the morning trades are starting to kick. Beyond the hum of the camp’s petrol generator in the background, the Javanese jungle is dead quiet.
Soon enough, the calm is ripped apart by the sound of a heli as it hawks over the jungle looking for somewhere to land. Up there in the cockpit, looking cramped and worried beside a tiny Indonesian pilot and with his board sticking out of the door, is Occy.
In the ensuring three hours, Occy, Taj and Benji battle to get waves from the 50-thick crowd. While the bulk to the crowd are taking off at Launching Pads, our team prefers to sit closer to the Speedies section of the reef, trying to pick up double-ups that evade the guys on the outside. Here’s what Occ had to say about the session…


× Stab: Talk us through your journey to G-Land with the bird.
Occy: I’d just gotten off the plane from Oz the night before and I knew it was gonna be on the next day. I couldn’t sleep that well. Two reasons: I haven’t surfed G Land for 10 years and I was really excited about it but the other reason – more so this reason – is that I was scared of the helicopter. I’m not scared of flying in a plane. A plane is out your control, a car is in your control and a chopper is somewhere in the middle. You think a plane can glide and do an emergency landing but a chopper’s gonna go straight down. I’ve been in one once before with heliboarding and that was really scary in Jackson Hole in America with Andy and Shane Dorian. That was cool going with all those guys because I had a few mates. In Indo, it was just kinda me. I mean, Taylor Steele was on it but he was in the back and I was in the front. It just felt like the pilot and I.
× And you rocked up thinking you’d have a Swiss pilot, trained in the finest of European aviation schools?
Taylor goes, last time we shot he was European: he’s cool, real competent, y’know. When we rock up it’s an Indonesian guy and I was starting to get real anxious. I had asked Taylor how many boards and he was, like, “Well, we took a couple when we did a shoot at Keramas with Andy and Bruce and they were fine.” Their boards were around six foot, though. I was trying to take a 6’9” and a 6’5” and the guy said there’s no way your boards are gonna fit. Taylor’s, like, “Let’s just try it.” First, we tried with the 6’9” and there was not a chance. Even the 6’5” wouldn’t fit. And I was like, “Sweet, let’s just shine it.” And Taylor’s like, “You can’t shine it, Billabong’s paid for this helicopter, if you’re not going, we’re not going.” So, they took the door off and the board went across the two Indo assistants and Taylor in the back and they just held it. And I was like, “Can the helicopter still fly straight, you’ve already taken off one door, you may as well take the other one off.” Then they said we’d have to fly slower and I was like, “God, this doesn’t sound good.”

× Describe the feeling up there?
The pilot was sweet but because he was Indonesian I had no idea what he was talking about. He was going back and forth to the tower and it seemed as if he had no idea where G Land was. Taylor was showing him on the map where he wanted to go and I was like, “Oh my goodness!”. Then every time he spoke with the airport, I swear he sounded distressed and didn’t know what he was doing.

× How’s G Land been for you?
The first time was with Ronnie Burns and Jason Buttonshaw waaaay back in the day for the Billabong film Pump or Surf Into Summer. It was ages ago, like the 80s. I also got to go there for the contest for four or five times and I haven’t been back for ten years. The last time I was there was when Louie won the contest.

× When he won, I heard you guys got the speed boat straight out of there and went mad in Bali?
Exactly. Because the contest was running right to the end, packed all my stuff up and all I had was one board and a back pack and I caddied for Louie. When Louie won, he got his fricken trophy, then with Louie we just jumped on our boards, paddled out to the speed boat and got out of there back to Bali. So I paddled out of there last time and then came back in a helicopter. Pretty classic.


× Can you tell us about that one amazing wave you caught?  Taj said it was the best cutback he’d ever seen you do. I have to admit that not one of the three cameras we had going captured it. Apologies.
That’s a bummer. I was in the barrel and thought I was hooking up with the camera boat but maybe I was dreamin’. I know Taj was right there, so at least it’s captured in his memory bank. That wave was about an eight-footer, it kinda doubled up and grew and I didn’t get barrelled straight away. I just set my edge and just kinda went down the line and kinda felt what it was doing Taj said it looked like Teahupoo the way it squared up. I got barrelled – not a long barrel – and then came out and did a nice cutty in front of him and that made my session. Taj and I have been surfing for such a long time, it’s cool that at least he saw it.

× Tell us about your friendships with Bruce and Andy. I hear you’re real tight with em?
Ages ago, me and Bruce had a hassle when he was sooo young. It was in a heat at three-foot Sunset Point and he was hassling me and I didn’t know who he was, and I’m like, “Fuck! What are you doin’, grommet? You wouldn’t even be out here if it was big.” Then I came in, and I said, “Who is that?” And they were
like, “It’s fucken Bruce Irons and it was massive two days ago and he was charging it.” And after that, Bruce and I have just become best friends. You always do that when you have a hassle with someone, you end up being really good friends. And with Andy, we just clicked the first time we met each other with Billabong, when we first started doing the tour. Bruce and I stay together wherever we can, like J Bay and Tahiti this year, and with Andy if
his chick’s not there and we’ll be going to his wedding next year, so yeah, it’s all sweet.

× There’s a big age gap between you and Bruce, how do you guys connect?{{content-banner}}
There is a big age gap but Bruce is pretty mature for his age. We really like similar things: we like hanging out, having a couple quiet beers in the arvie, and we like same music and we play golf and all kinds of stuff. I think he gets my kinda humour. Well, you know what I mean, I don’t try to be funny and I think they like that they never know what’s gonna come out. I really like hanging out with em.

× How well do you think you’ll cope next year when the Snapper event’s on and you’re not in it?
I know. That’s a really good question. I think about that every time I drive past Snapper. It’s just gonna be the way it is. I’ve got to remind myself that I’ve won a world title, I’ve been doing the tour for almost 15 years and I’ve had my run. I was thinking, “Fuck, I might go away when that contest is on” but then I’ve got all me mates here, like Andy and Bruce will be here. I want to watch them surf it and hang out with them so I’m not gonna go away. I gonna stay and enjoy it because I’ve had a good run and there’s no reason I should be bitter. I should just enjoy it.


Okay, tell us something we’re not acutely aware of, namely our overuse of Taj Burrow in Stab shoots. When this shoot began to take shape at Grajagan, we seared our mobiles to our ears hunting different surfers to include on this super session. I mean, could anyone stomach seeing Taj in Stab shot from a chopper again? What, for the fourth, fifth time? We’d locked in Occ direct from Oz, that was cool. We were hunting Bruce but he was being inducted into a hall of fame in California, Jordy and Dane were surfing in the WQS event at Huntington and Parko was home because his girl was about to drop his second kid. There’s always Kelly but he’d hung around at J-Bay just to surf and his arrival is never a guarantee. Then there was Mick Fanning but he was neck-deep in training and preparation.
I worked with photog Hump and Taylor Steele about shipping in extra surfers and TB overheard my dilemma. Cockily, he began spruiking: “You use me because I show up and blow up,” he said. The bill for the shoot was $US16,000 and there was a hole in the mag it could slip straight in to. The bill was steep but the payment plan was coming together. Stab would throw down a couple gees, as would Surfing magazine in the US, and Billabong would take down eight. At the last minute, we found Benji Weatherly and his sponsor Analog agreed to throw down as well. Considering Taj was on the best competitive run of his career, we figured we could find grill him about his recent extremely public break-up and good form on tour…

Taj Burrow

× Stab: Choppers, eh? The surf world’s gone mad for em. Could you ever believe that those sessions we organised for the first issue of Stab could have ever created such a change in surf photography?
Taj: Can you believe how many have tried to do the same thing! It’s crazy when you think about it. The chopper’s the new angle everyone shoots from. The chopper angle isn’t even that great. We did the best of it day one. It haven’t seen better chopper shots of hi-fi slaying than that. I’m so glad we introduced it to hi-fi surfing otherwise it’d still be about big-wave surfing at Jaws or whatever.

× If you had’ve taken your spot on the tour when you qualified you would have surfed G-Land, right?

Yeah. The last one that Louie won.

× Tell us about the wave? You were the driving force behind the shoot going there?

On its day, I reckon it would be what I’d pictured. The direction was a little bit wrong, it was just a little too big and it wasn’t like crazy down-the-line ruler-edge lips that everyone talks about. It was just big monsters coming off that launching pads section, pushing wide, unless it was on dead high tide and then you could get one through Speedies. It was just really reliant on the tide. Too many big ones would push wide and just burger out. You could definitely get a taste of what it really does. We saw a couple that were perfect walls but when you’d get locked into a pit a crazy lip would fall out of nowhere. We didn’t have all the ingredients but, damn, we could see what it’s capable of doing and I’d love to be there for it. Ended up feeling its power. I got pounded.

× Tell us about the beating. The Bird
I got one toward the end of the day and had been riding a 6’5” that felt perfect. I went to the 6’1” because you wanted your 6’5” back and the 6’1” was just too small because the waves were massive. I got this one on my 6’1” and almost lost it on the bottom turn. I wound up the windows and regained composure, nursed this long bottom turn and did a snap under the lip and pulled in. I was locked into the sickest pit. It looked like it was gonna be my best one and I just kinda had my arms dropped into a wave, just pig dogging through this drainer through Speedies. My board felt small but I had a lot of my body in the water so it was holding me in. And then these little ridges were coming off the reef and one of them kinda buckled my board and my body and just gave me a little wobble. In a split second, my board just flipped out of my hand and within a millisecond I was just doing cartwheels, like
upside down in the lip. I was rolling on the reef and my feet were just getting pounded and getting cut to shreds. I was banging along the bottom – fricken mach ten! – and then, sure enough, I just hit this massive rock ass first. It just buckled me. I just got wrapped around it. I came up bleeding went in. Later, I was talking to a few of the local mad dogs on the beach – well, not locals but one of those mad guys who posts up there for months at a time – and I told em I’d hit a rock. And they were like, “There’s only one rock out there.” Sure enough I was looking out there on the low tide and it’s the flattest reef in the world and there’s one massive rock right where you pull in at Speedies. I was pretty blown away by all the cowboys who go there for three months and wait for swells like that. They certainly aren’t intimidated. I thought we were gonna get a lot of waves because the swell was so big but every single dude was an absolute cowboy, just ripping the bag out of it. Guys doing proper big turns on eight-to-10-foot waves then pulling into anything.

× Three cameras and we missed Occy’s wave. You were right there, right?

That wave will lock in the memory bank forever, because one, it was Occy and, two, it was G-Land, three, the wave he got was fucken amazing. I was just looking into it the whole time and he had perfect form: his relaxed Occ bottom turn style and his style is just so suited to that wave. He locked into this perfectly glassy drainer and then he just stood there and you know when you haven’t had a good tube for a while you get real excited. He just got spat out of it and he looked straight at me and I looked straight at him and he was just so excited and it was such a perfect one and he just knew it and then he did the biggest hack I’ve ever seen in person. It was mongo-sized Occy hack on this perfect one. After it, he just pulled out he did this little claim and clenched his fist and was just going, YES! And he paddled up to me, just frothing, high fiving, you just couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. It was the two things he’s best at – and he just did it boom boom – in front of me: a frontside tube at G Land to this full-on perfect trademark hack. I wouldn’t have liked to watch anyone else ride that wave.

× What about your current injuries?
I’ve copped a hiding. The G-Land kicker punch cost me a week. I hurt my knee 10 days ago, tore my medial ligament. It spooked the hell out of me because this is the most important time of my whole career. I got onto it immediately, flew my physio over here, saw doctors in Perth and got to the bottom of it. I’ve been treating the fuck out of it, fitness everyday, doing everything I can to be as hi-fi as I can at Trestles. That’s one event that I really want. I’m feeling the most positive I’ve ever felt during an injury. It’s productive downtime.

× What do you do differently this year to close victories?

It’s all mental. I know that I’ve always surfed good enough to win events, I’ve just never had enough hunger or determination to keep winning. I look at it and I’m getting a little older and I know I can beat everyone on the tour. I’m sick of second. I know I can win. I feel like I can do whatever anyone else can do and I feel like I can do airs better. When I need to pull something out I can.

× It’s been a wild couple of months for you. You broke up with your girl and then the media in Australia had her splattered across covers with ol’ Greasy Bear. On the morning of the J-Bay final, I got a text from you that read: “Fuck, I can’t even think straight. I’ve seen so many photos of her and that cunt. I can’t get it out of my head. I can’t believe I have found out through the net and gossip mags that my chick is pumping some fuck. I’ve lost my mind.” I reckon that without that pain you wouldn’t have won… 

× Yep, in the past you would’ve been tired, or given up to Mick or Kelly or Parko. 
Well, don’t get carried away. The effort I’ve put in training and travelling with a physio is definitely helping that way. I didn’t feel tired at Bells, or tired at J-Bay one bit. That’s paying off. Definitely mentally I was hungry for it.

× Splitting from your chick is always tough. How did you feel when you trawled the net and spotted those shots?
I’ve never felt like that in my life. It was the toughest thing I’ve gone through in my life. That kinda stuff is horrible, especially when it’s so public. A lot of people around the contest knew what was going on. I wasn’t going to let that shit ruin my life. I was angry. I had to take my anger and turn it into positive energy. I was so determined to fucken win.

× To numb the pain?

I just realised that everyone is on their own in this fucken world. I just wanted to achieve my goals and no one was gonna stand in my way. That was the biggest hump that could ever stand in my way and I knew if I could beat it, I was gonna be invincible.

× Everyone tastes heartbreak. What’s your best remedy for beating it?
Avoid all bickering over text and phone. Stay crazy motivated, keep busy and fit.

× Mick Fanning has made it obvious that he’s serious and kinda angry for the title. Tell me about the Nixon watch thing at J Bay.
Nah, get out of it.

× It’s a good story. You’re in the water waiting for the semi to start and you’ve currently got the highest heat score of the event which means you’re in the lead for the 10-grand Nixon watch. Kelly gets a really good wave in the previous heat, outscores your high score of the event and takes the ten grand watch. What did you say to Mick?
I was like, “Oh fuck, the wanker just stole my watch!”. I was sitting right next to Mick and he had the inside. He didn’t turn
around, he didn’t flinch, he didn’t do a thing but stare out at the horizon. It was plenty decibels loud enough for him to hear it so I know that wasn’t the problem, so I was just thinking, “Are you fucken kidding?” I respect that he’s focussed but I just went, “Fuck this, I’m not here to be nice any more” and paddled him up the point. Fuck, angry man came out. I was like, “You’re not having the inside,” and paddled him up the point. That shit happens in the water all the time but that was one thing that sparked me up. I thank him for it.

× Which events are you gonna win this year?
Lowers, France and Brazil.


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