Stab Magazine | Wanna See Occy at Bells?
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Wanna See Occy at Bells?

There has been plenty of talk around 45-year-old Mark Occhilupo after his semis finish in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro, Margaret River on the weekend. Occ is in as good a form on his backhand as he’s ever been. Taj Burrow was baffled by the way Occ was surfing at Margs: “He was surfing no […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

There has been plenty of talk around 45-year-old Mark Occhilupo after his semis finish in the Telstra Drug Aware Pro, Margaret River on the weekend. Occ is in as good a form on his backhand as he’s ever been. Taj Burrow was baffled by the way Occ was surfing at Margs: “He was surfing no different to when he was on tour at his peak,” he says. Following his effort, there’s a buzz emerging around Occ getting a wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro at Bells. And, when Kelly Slater tweets to his 170,000 twitter followers, momentum usually ensues: “#PutOccyInBells2012 Would be sick. Gonna be big by the look of things on map, too!”

Is it possible for Occ to overtake months of planning and bureaucracy to get a start in an event because the forecast is looking good? For the feat to happen, the call has to come from Rip Curl. They have two wildcard spots. The ASP have wildcards but they’re already given out before the first event of the season. “They’re for the entire year and there’s no rotation between events,” says ASP’s international media man, Dave Prodan. “As with Bruce in Chopes, the ASP doesn’t have wildcards in each event.”

#putbruceinchopes was another social media groundswell to get Bruce Irons a wildcard spot in the main event of the Billabong Pro in Tahiti last year (his brother Andy had won the event the previous year, just weeks before his death). That didn’t work. The thing was, Bruce had lost in the trials and the wildcard spots had already been allocated. And, these spots are often given to local surfers in return for events being held in their territory.

Ain’t no doubt that WT surfers are hot for a little bit of Occ sizzle in the Bowl. “How all-time would that be!” says Mick Fanning, former world champ and Bells winner. “If it’s four-to-six feet Bowl there is no other person I’d rather watch out there. He is the best on the bowl by far.”

Taj Burrow agrees: “He’d be terrifying to surf against at six foot Bells.”

When Stab called Occ, he was obviously thrilled with the support and the buzz around his Margarets performance. He won the Rip Curl Pro at Bells in 1998 and the Skins event there the previous year. And, he reckons it’s still his fave wave on tour. “It’s all up to Bells Bowl but if the Bowl’s on and it’s bigger than three-to-four feet… wow. I’ve had that much success out there. I’ve had so much pleasure from surfing out there. I get so high from competing there. It’s my favourite. Margs has been great and they’re kinda similar waves but Bells is better.”

“I’ve had that much success out there. I’ve had so much pleasure from surfing out there. I get so high from competing there. It’s my favourite.” – Occy, on Bells Beach.

And, does he feel like he can still compete with the world’s best? “I’d be psyched, so psyched. It would be out of this world. The board and the way I feel on the wave right now. It feels like I haven’t missed a beat.”

Realistically, the trials at Bells are Occ’s only chance. We’re yet to get a response from Rip Curl but a man who knows the ASP intimately is the 11-time world champ, Kelly Slater. When asked about the possibility of Occy getting a start, he said: “Probably won’t but it would be classic. He’d be way better at big Bells than some grom from from the trials.”

Rip Curl’s response coming soon. – Sam McIntosh.

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