Mark Occhilupo, the 45-year-old has been making people smile for the better part of three decades now, advanced out of his Round 1 heat at the Nike Lowers Pro on Wednesday at San Clemente, Calif. While everybody showed up early in the morning to watch Dane Reynolds do his thing -- which he did -- they stayed through the low tide and onshore wind to watch Occy.
But why? Why Lowers 30 years later?
"There's a couple reasons," Occy explained after his heat. "I'm on my way to Brazil for the Billabong Pro Rio, to commentate, so I figured I'd come do Lowers, see a few sponsors. I'm helping host the Big Wave awards later this week so there's that."
That's serious Occy. There's also entertaining Occy, ever smiling. Also known to croon a tune or two on stage during the XXL Awards, we put it to him: will we see him sing again on Friday night in Anaheim?
"I'm not going to sing again because, yeah, well, ya know, well maybe … you never know."
Back to serious Occy. How's it feeling?
"It's feelin' great, ya know. The plan was to try and be in the top 96 by the time Hawaii comes around so I can be in the Triple Crown, and it's going according to plan. Everything else is icing on the cake."
And plans for the rest of the year?
"Well, yeah. I'm going to go to J-Bay and do the contest before J-Bay in Durban, hopefully, if I can get in it. And I should be rated high enough by then, so yeah, umm, Hawaii. It's good."
Does that mean he's back? Does that mean Taylor Knox and Kelly Slater will be but young pups on tour in 2013. Don't count on it, but to Occy's credit, he's surfing as good as ever. In a contest of tail blows and air reverses, he's all power, all rail.
But maybe there's something to this return to power surfing. Most every heat won Wednesday involved ample use of rail. Knox, Nat Young, Michel Bourez, all of them won on turns, not airs.
"It felt good out there today," Bourez said. "My board's been going good for me, and with a little wind out there today there's not always the opportunities to go the air, but if you get the right one that lines up on the point you can go to work.
The forecast continues to look stellar for the rest of the week, so in the words of Occy: "What a great week."
Nike Lowers Pro Round of 48 Results:
Heat 1: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 13.20, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 12.04, Billy Stairmand (NZL) 10.63, Tim Reyes (USA) 9.67
Heat 2: Sebastien Zietz (HAW) 14.40, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.30, Evan Geiselman (USA) 13.33, Gony Zubizarreta (ESP) 11.40
Heat 3: Nat Young (USA) 15.94, Glenn Hall (IRL) 12.26, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.07, Marc Lacomare (FRA) 7.53
Heat 4: Taylor Knox (USA) 15.70, John John Florence (HAW) 14.30, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 14.17, Kai Barger (HAW) 6.62
Heat 5: Gabe Kling (USA) 15.80, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.00, Adrien Toyon (REU) 13.60, Jeffrey Lukasik (USA) 12.16
Heat 6: Cory Lopez (USA) 15.64, Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.87, Mitchel Coleborn (AUS) 10.67, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 6.93
Nike Lowers Pro Round of 96 Results:
Heat 15: Dane Reynolds (USA) 17.36, Mitch Crews (AUS) 12.87, Kai Otton (AUS) 11.90, Filipe Toledo (BRA) 10.46
Heat 16: Brett Simpson (USA) 13.17, Granger Larsen (HAW) 11.06, Luke Davis (USA) 10.94, Masatoshi Ohno (JPN) 8.47
Heat 17: Heitor Alves (HAW) 16.17, Conner Coffin (USA) 13.40, Nic Muscroft (AUS) 11.36, Alain Riou (PYF) 9.37
Heat 18: Daniel Ross (AUS) 12.50, Jano Belo (BRA) 11.44, Roy Powers (HAW) 7.20, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 5.50
Heat 19: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 15.44, Kiron Jabour (HAW) 13.00, Tim Boal (FRA) 10.74, Richard Christie (NZL) Heat 20: Jay Thompson (AUS) 13.50, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 12.73, Shaun Joubert (ZAF) 12.37, Brian Toth (PRI) 12.20
Heat 21: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.93, Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 12.63, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 11.90, Dylan Graves (PRI) 9.67
Heat 22: Nathan Yeomans (USA) 14.70, Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.90, Jack Freestone (AUS) 11.87, Adam Melling (AUS) 9.80
Heat 23: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 14.03, Hank Gaskell (HAW) 12.67, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 9.27, Jonathan Gonzalez (CNY) 7.24
Heat 24: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.87, Romain Cloitre (FRA) 13.17, Mason Ho (HAW) 11.87, Koa Smith (HAW) 9.80