Occy Wins The Op Pro Boat Challenge

June 21: Occy Cliams His Fourth Op Pro Championship

Mark “Occy” Occhilupo claimed his fourth OP PRO today in perfect 5′ Macaroni’s point surf. Occy schooled “new schoolers” Andy and Bruce Irons by consistently stuffing himself deep in the barrel. But not to be outdone by the eclectic Irons brothers, Occy would also race out onto the shoulder and slice exacto knife gouges, laying open the wave face time after time with surgeonesque precision. Occy also threw his body and board into the air on one occasion and stuck the landing–something the other two surfers couldn’t pull off.

Occy earned a cool $30,000 for his victory today, close to $60,000 in Australian dollars.

Occy, the elder statesmen of the crew at 35, won his first two OP PROs in succession at Huntington Beach back in the 80’s. His next two OP PRO victories, also in succession, were claimed in Indonesia, here in the wave fields of the Menatawai Islands.

“Wow! Um…I can’t believe it. The waves we got the other day at CanDooies, to be able to surf there with these surfers, Andy, CJ, Timmy, Bruce, um Shane, that day was fabulous,” said Occhilupo. “Then today at Macaroni’s…that’s one of my favorite waves in the world. And I borrowed this guy’s board, Herb, thanks for the board, and tell that guy Midget thanks too. Well, anyway, where was I…I had a real ball out there today. I want to thank OP for having me back. I’d never miss it. I love this event. The different variety of surf…especially that left the other day. I’m just really grateful to be involved with this contest.”

After the final the armada moved to HTs for a $10,000 winner-take-all expression session. All six surfers, Occy, Shane Dorian, CJ Hobgood, Tim Curran and the Irons brothers are eligible for the loot. However, money isn’t always a motivating force for these young surfers.

In yesterday’s 2nd chance repercharge heat, in which the winner would advance to the $30,000 final heat, CJ Hobgood and Tim Curran both were in position to advance with just one more quality-scoring ride. However, they each chose to surf “switch foot” on waves that quite possibly could have moved them into the money round. Instead the two surfers’ nonchalant approach, fooling around with the waves, instead of cutting loose with abandon, made them, according to the judges, look like kooks. But what’s thirty grand between buds?

Nevertheless, all the surfers paddled out into solid 6′ bombs. Shane Dorian took off on a thick beast, turned into the tube and drove for eight seconds through a sometimes frothy, sometimes dry barrel. He won $3300 for “best tube.” CJ Hobgood took home the loot for “best maneuver” with a backside 360-tailslide-floater combo. Bruce Irons landed an 360 air to take home the loot for “best aerial.”

“Easily the best offshore event that I’ve been invoed with or had the opportunity to even watch,” explained an ecstatic Bernie Baker, contest director for the OP PRO. “I’ve never seen so many people in such precarious positions, all of the boats in the middle of the ocean…to be able to keep it together, put it together and make it work. It was an absolutely awesome event in every sense. I wish the people out there could have experienced what we have experienced. There is nothing like it, in any sport.”

Official results MEN’S FINAL

1. Mark Occhilupo
2. Andy Irons
3. Bruce Irons

KEALA CROWNED OP PRO CHAMPION 2001Bruce Irons wins men’s repercharge; moves back into competition.

JUNE 20

Keala Kennelly was crowned the OP PRO 2001 women’s champion today, afterdefeating Rochelle Ballard in head high surf at Macaroni’s. Kennellycontinually positioned herself for clean, deep and long tuberides. Rochellerode long waves as well, but wasn’t able to get the lengthy tube sections.”I’m just really stoked to have won the OP PRO today,” said Kennelly. “Iwas honored to surf with you guys (the other girls). You all ripped.”

Kennelly received $20,000 for her victory. Added to the $2500 that she wona few days ago in extremely powerful 8′ left barrels, Kennelly’s total takefor the OP PRO 2001 was $22,500. “That day was awesome,” explainedKennelly, referring to the big day. “At first I was getting really angry atmyself. I kept eating it. I knew there were a lot of expectations on me inthe big stuff, because of my reputation at Teahupoo and in Hawaii. Finally,after I asked for an extension in the heat, I just told myself to calmdown. Then I made one really insane one, and from then on out, I was onit.”

But that was another day, and today offered up rippable lefts at Macaroni’sfor the men as well. In the “2nd chance” repercharge heat, Bruce Irons tookout the competition in much the same way as Kennelly. The younger Ironssecured his spot in the men’s semi-final with Andy Irons and Mark Occhilupoby finding himself on dry end of the biggest and best barrels. Tim Curranand CJ Hobgood tied for 2nd, with Shane Dorian getting last in the heat.Bruce earned himself a cool 5 Gs for effort.

Tomorrow, all signs point to another day of competition. The armada issailing towards HTs tonight. With a cooperating swell and wind, the men’ssemi-final and final may be held. An “expression session” heat may also beheld (time permitting), with the $5000 winners check being donated to theMentawai people via Surf Aid (www.surfaid.com).

Official results from day 10:

WOMEN’S FINAL

1. Keala Kennelly-$20,000
2. Rochelle Ballard

MEN’S REPERCHARGE

1)Bruce Irons-$5000
2)Tim Curran
2)CJ Hobgood
4)Shane Dorian

JUNE 18

The OP PRO 2001 weighed anchor early this morning and sailed forTelescopes, a peeling lefthander. The swell, which seemed to have droppedas quickly as it arrived, was only about 5′. The wind was straight offshoreall day, and the surfers were ready to do battle. After yesterday’shairball sessions, these waves looked playful in comparison.

Upon arrival the powers that be agreed to run both a men’s and women’sheat. In the men’s competition, two of the four surfers remaining wouldsurvive. The other two would be sent packing. There is still a “2nd chance”heat. In that heat, Tim Curran, Shane Dorian and today’s two losing surferswill slug it out to see who joins the final two surfers in the next heat.

In the women’s division, with only three surfers left, the competitionstiffened. After today’s heat, one woman surfer is to be voted off theisland, so to speak. The final two women will surf in the championshipheat, later in the trip.

The men’s heat started straight off with an incredible display of slashing.After two hours of fierce competition which included numerous gaping tubes,lofty floaters, piercing cutbacks and what ever else the crew could throwat each other, the results came in. Mark Occhilupo and Andy Irons werevictorious. Bruce Irons and CJ Hobgood now join Curran and Dorian in the2nd chance heat. One surfer out of this 2nd chance heat moves on to surfagainst Occy and Andy.

Rochelle Ballard came out on top in the women’s heat by nabbing large setwaves and applying a repertoire of carves and speedy cutbacks. In a hardfought battle for the second, Keala Kennelly narrowly edged Serena Brooke,guaranteeing the hot goofyfoot a spot in the final alongside Ballard.

“I’m really stoked,” said the victorious Ballard. “Who wouldn’t be happysurfing out in perfect waves with two of your friends.”

“I’m still feeling a little worked from yesterday,” said Kennelly, whocharged hard yesterday in the big stuff. “But it was great to surf in suchfun waves. We were just cruising after yesterday.”

The entire armada is still buzzing from yesterday’s mind numbing barrelfestival. “Mate, if you took all the barrels we got out there yesterday,”explained Occy in retrospect, “and put them together one after another, youcould ride one continuous, long, dry barrel all the way to Padang.”

“The best tubes I’ve ever photographed in a contest,” said master lensmanJeff Divine. “Except for Pipe, but you can’t compare anything to Pipe.Yesterday was phenomenal.”

Tomorrow it looks like we will move on towards HT’s and Lance’s left.

Official results from day 8:

MEN

1. Mark Occhilupo
2. Andy Irons
3. Bruce Irons
4. CJ Hobgood

WOMEN

1. Rochelle Ballard
2. Keala Kennelly
3. Serena Brooke

JUNE 16

Today the surf increased slightly, but not enough to get the green lightfrom the contest officials and surfers. Some lively (if not all togetherheated) discussion was had between all the parties involved and it wasagreed upon to hold off another day for the swell to fill in.

“The swell is just to inconsistent for all six surfers to get their wavecount,” explained contest Director Bernie Baker. “So what we’ve decided todo is surf this afternoon with their jersey’s on in an expression sessionformat. We want to give a little something back to the locals. Keep in mindthat this little beach is these peopleÕs front and back yard. The want tosee a show…and Occy and the boys want to give them one.”

Tomorrow brings with it the hope of an increase in swell. Baker isconfident that it will arrive. With only five days remaining, some of us are gettingantsy to see some heats. Baker is as calm and cool as they come. And after20+ years of running surf contests on Oahu’s North Shore, his patience andnerve are both unwavering. “Right now, if you look at the number of daysthat we are into, from the moment that we actually got to the surf (Tuesdaymorning), we are absolutely right on schedule,” explained Baker. “Last yearwe ran into some unstable weather, which threw us off a day or two, andeverything worked out fine. So right now, we are setting up for a perfectfinish. We are not in panic mode…yet.”

Some are a bit panicky however. But it has nothing to do with the swell andeverything to do with Occy’s birthday party tonight. The festivitiespromise to be wrought with plenty of libations. Mix in a few older photog types, acouple of surf journos, Damien “Dooma” Hardman, Marty Thomas, and…wellyou can see why some are nervous. “It’s just really neat to celebrate Occy’sbirthday because he’s an older surfer,” Said photographer Jeff Divine. “Butyou see, Occy can rage all night and still beat all those guys tomorrow.”

JUNE 15

The OP PRO 2001 has again been put on hold due to lack of surf. ContestDirector Bernie Baker made the call to hold off on running any heats today,as the possibility of a strong swell lingers in the a an incredible display of slashing.After two hours of fierce competition which included numerous gaping tubes,lofty floaters, piercing cutbacks and what ever else the crew could throwat each other, the results came in. Mark Occhilupo and Andy Irons werevictorious. Bruce Irons and CJ Hobgood now join Curran and Dorian in the2nd chance heat. One surfer out of this 2nd chance heat moves on to surfagainst Occy and Andy.

Rochelle Ballard came out on top in the women’s heat by nabbing large setwaves and applying a repertoire of carves and speedy cutbacks. In a hardfought battle for the second, Keala Kennelly narrowly edged Serena Brooke,guaranteeing the hot goofyfoot a spot in the final alongside Ballard.

“I’m really stoked,” said the victorious Ballard. “Who wouldn’t be happysurfing out in perfect waves with two of your friends.”

“I’m still feeling a little worked from yesterday,” said Kennelly, whocharged hard yesterday in the big stuff. “But it was great to surf in suchfun waves. We were just cruising after yesterday.”

The entire armada is still buzzing from yesterday’s mind numbing barrelfestival. “Mate, if you took all the barrels we got out there yesterday,”explained Occy in retrospect, “and put them together one after another, youcould ride one continuous, long, dry barrel all the way to Padang.”

“The best tubes I’ve ever photographed in a contest,” said master lensmanJeff Divine. “Except for Pipe, but you can’t compare anything to Pipe.Yesterday was phenomenal.”

Tomorrow it looks like we will move on towards HT’s and Lance’s left.

Official results from day 8:

MEN

1. Mark Occhilupo
2. Andy Irons
3. Bruce Irons
4. CJ Hobgood

WOMEN

1. Rochelle Ballard
2. Keala Kennelly
3. Serena Brooke

JUNE 16

Today the surf increased slightly, but not enough to get the green lightfrom the contest officials and surfers. Some lively (if not all togetherheated) discussion was had between all the parties involved and it wasagreed upon to hold off another day for the swell to fill in.

“The swell is just to inconsistent for all six surfers to get their wavecount,” explained contest Director Bernie Baker. “So what we’ve decided todo is surf this afternoon with their jersey’s on in an expression sessionformat. We want to give a little something back to the locals. Keep in mindthat this little beach is these peopleÕs front and back yard. The want tosee a show…and Occy and the boys want to give them one.”

Tomorrow brings with it the hope of an increase in swell. Baker isconfident that it will arrive. With only five days remaining, some of us are gettingantsy to see some heats. Baker is as calm and cool as they come. And after20+ years of running surf contests on Oahu’s North Shore, his patience andnerve are both unwavering. “Right now, if you look at the number of daysthat we are into, from the moment that we actually got to the surf (Tuesdaymorning), we are absolutely right on schedule,” explained Baker. “Last yearwe ran into some unstable weather, which threw us off a day or two, andeverything worked out fine. So right now, we are setting up for a perfectfinish. We are not in panic mode…yet.”

Some are a bit panicky however. But it has nothing to do with the swell andeverything to do with Occy’s birthday party tonight. The festivitiespromise to be wrought with plenty of libations. Mix in a few older photog types, acouple of surf journos, Damien “Dooma” Hardman, Marty Thomas, and…wellyou can see why some are nervous. “It’s just really neat to celebrate Occy’sbirthday because he’s an older surfer,” Said photographer Jeff Divine. “Butyou see, Occy can rage all night and still beat all those guys tomorrow.”

JUNE 15

The OP PRO 2001 has again been put on hold due to lack of surf. ContestDirector Bernie Baker made the call to hold off on running any heats today,as the possibility of a strong swell lingers in the air like the aroma offreshly baked bread. We can smell it, and we’re hungry.

The OP PRO armada headed off to surf the small but fun surf of E Bay. Theswell, which dropped instead of building, was 3′–still though, extremelyfun surf, relativley speaking. Andy Irons led the charge, boosting airs atwill. And Occy was carving big rooster tail roundies all the way to thebeach.

Speaking of Occy…he gave away one of his surfboards to a local surferhere at E bay. “I remembered the guy from last years event,” explainedOcchilupo. “Last year I was thinking I’d give that guy my board, but weleft and I never got around to it. So this year when I was packing, I sawthat board lying around my room, and I figured I bring it along to givehim. Sure enough, when we pulled up here (Ebay) the bloke was out surfing.So I went back to the boat and got the board for him.” Occy’s odds justdropped to even money based on the good karma factor.

The local surfer was not the only one to receive good news today. Contestdirector Bernie Baker received a fax from Hawaiian surf forecaster BrucePleas, and there is a formidable low pressure system set up to produce asolid 6′ swell. The low has twin gale centers spinning furiously, and aimedstraight at us. The forecast is for three solid days of swell beginning onthe the 17th.he air like the aroma offreshly baked bread. We can smell it, and we’re hungry.

The OP PRO armada headed off to surf the small but fun surf of E Bay. Theswell, which dropped instead of building, was 3′–still though, extremelyfun surf, relativley speaking. Andy Irons led the charge, boosting airs atwill. And Occy was carving big rooster tail roundies all the way to thebeach.

Speaking of Occy…he gave away one of his surfboards to a local surferhere at E bay. “I remembered the guy from last years event,” explainedOcchilupo. “Last year I was thinking I’d give that guy my board, but weleft and I never got around to it. So this year when I was packing, I sawthat board lying around my room, and I figured I bring it along to givehim. Sure enough, when we pulled up here (Ebay) the bloke was out surfing.So I went back to the boat and got the board for him.” Occy’s odds justdropped to even money based on the good karma factor.

The local surfer was not the only one to receive good news today. Contestdirector Bernie Baker received a fax from Hawaiian surf forecaster BrucePleas, and there is a formidable low pressure system set up to produce asolid 6′ swell. The low has twin gale centers spinning furiously, and aimedstraight at us. The forecast is for three solid days of swell beginning onthe the 17th.