16 June 1966 |
Kurnell, New South Wales
|Residence||Gold Coast, QLD, Australia|
|Height||5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
|Weight||194 lb (88 kg)|
|Best year||1st (1999)|
|Major achievements||World Surfing Champion 1999|
Occhilupo, also known as Occy, began his professional career in the World Championship Tour (WCT) at the age of 17.
Life and career
Occhilupo was born on 16 June 1966 in Kurnell, New South Wales, where he began surfing at the age of nine. He soon progressed to neighboring Cronulla.
He won his first amateur Schoolboys contest at 13 and followed up with two Cadet State Titles. After the 10th grade, he left home as an ASP trialist. Virtually unnoticed, he sneaked into the Top 16 at year’s end, securing a seed for the following year.
In 1984, Occy shot to the top of the ASP ratings as a cocky 17-year-old and set performance standards over the next few years that still haven’t been matched. At Jeffreys Bay, his power and aggression turned backhand surfing into an advantage.
Even in America, where Tom Curren had become somewhat of a surfing deity, Occy was adored. In surfing’s biggest spectator event, the Op Pro, the two engaged in a rivalry. With aspirations in the acting field, Occy played himself in the 1987 Hollywood Cult-Classic, North Shore. Professional surfing was peaking, and Curren and Occy were the superheroes, delivering the surf industry unprecedented wealth. He hovered around the top five in the ratings, but some unfortunate influences steered him from a world title that many felt he deserved.
However, the popular surfer struggled with depression. Years on the tour burned him out. He lost focus; he lost his desire to surf. The young, aggressive surfer faded away from the ’80s spotlight and into a subdued existence. Then, in 1988, his life started to unravel. From a simple and busy existence of vegetarianism, yoga, and competition, he began to indulge in activities that he had avoided in his early life because he hadn't had time to be a rascal teenager. Indulging in drug and alcohol use, partying, and showing disregard for his gift became the object of his life. A touchy subject still to this day, Occy basically lived the young Aussie surfer's lifestyle typical of the time. Burned out on the tour, he threw a quarterfinal heat at the Op and headed home to Cronulla. At that point, he struggled with motivation and his ever-fluctuating weight. He quit the World Tour in the early 1990s.
Over the next several years, he made a couple of half-hearted comeback attempts and remained in the public eye as a repeating star of Jack McCoy’s Billabong videos. Married in 1993 to Beatrice Ballardie, he built a house near Kirra, sat on the couch, and basically didn't get up for more than a year. From his 111-kilo peak, he began a training program under McCoy in Western Australia that helped him shed 34 kilos and regain his form.
As the years passed, the time away gave Occhilupo a clearer vision of his goal: to dominate the world circuit by making an incredible comeback. In 1995, he re-entered the surfing arena, proving he could still capture a title. With some major wins under his comeback belt, Occhilupo stunned the surfing world by capturing the world title in 1999 at the age of 33. From his home in Bilambil Heights, New South Wales, where he lived with Beatrice and stepson Raynor, Occy's long overdue reign had finally begun.
With well over 20 years of competition under his belt, 2005 saw him contemplate retirement; but after a solid year wherein he was recognised as putting on arguably the best backside performance ever seen at Jeffreys Bay and with an immense amount of fan support, Occy changed his plans and is back to give the youngsters (who are literally half his age) plenty of stick.
His surname, Occhilupo, is Italian and means "eyes of the wolf." However, his nickname is "The Raging Bull."