Occy J Bay by Billabong: Sagas of Shred

Today, Shredderz, I don’t have much to say. Frankly, what more is there to add when your subject is a perfect power hack performed by one of the most famous backhands in the business? Even better is the fact this image features Mark Occhilupo lacerating a groomed wall at Jeffreys Bay. The Occy J Bay combo is up there with the most memorable surfer / wave pairings in history, and this photograph is a clear demonstration why. This is a Billabong ad taken from Surfing Magazine sometime in 1991.

It’s interesting that this ad ran during the low years of Occ’s career, when he slipped out of the surfing limelight despite having been one of the marquee stars of the Eighties. It’s startling to think how young Occy was during the height of his fame. (Check out the peerless Encyclopedia of Surfing for their in-depth Occy bio if you want to learn more.) By 1991, Occy was only twenty five, yet he had already experienced the white hot glare of the insane OP Pro crowds in the mid-Eighties, and was a mere eight years away from winning the World Title. When I first came across this ad I was surprised to see that Billabong was still giving Occy the star treatment in its marketing after he had already fallen off the world tour. It’s no wonder Occy’s world title is still viewed as one of the great feel good comebacks in professional surfing.

Curiously, I couldn’t find any good photos of Occy’s performance at the 1984 Country Feeling Classic. The contest is widely regarded as having begun the Occy J Bay love affair. I was able to find this highlight video. Check out the very end, which features Occy surfing in the foreground and Shaun Tomson on the next wave in the set.

Occy’s still going strong today via his Occ-Cast interview series. Check out the latest episode below, featuring the recently retired Joel Parkinson.

And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of Occ, here’s another Billabong ad featuring Occhilupo at his most smoldering.

Thanks for reading and check back in next Thursday evening for more Sagas of Shred!

Occy Billabong Ad: Sagas of Shred

First, let me say that I am a huge Occy fan. For a while Occy was my favorite surfer, and his redemptive 1999 World Championship campaign was a huge inspiration to your Shreditor in Chief. Occ’s legacy is not only a spot on power surfing’s Mount Rushmore, but also a space as one of the most beloved Aussie characters ever to hit surfing. Occy’s still going strong today, and if you haven’t yet had a chance, I urge you to check out The Occ Cast. I never pegged Occy for a talk show host, but it turns out his guileless charm makes him a natural. Anyway, as you can see, I’ll sing Mr Occhilupo’s praises until the cows come home…but all that said, this Occy Billabong ad is downright hilarious.

The ad originally ran in Surfing Magazine in 1987 (Vol 27, No 2). I’m guessing the campaign must have been shot right after the peak of Occy’s early fame, on the heels of his back-to-back OP Pro finals against Tom Curren.

The clothes in this Occy Billabong ad are par for the course for the Eighties — that is to say, totally ridiculous — but I’m also oddly fascinated by the girl at the right hand side of the picture. Then again, there is a lot about Eighties surf ads that I will never understand, but that doesn’t stop me from getting a huge kick out of them.

Billabong and founder Gordon Merchant famously stood by Occy during his late Eighties / early Nineties swoon, and were rewarded with his feel good comeback win following Kelly Slater’s first retirement. In a way, Billabong is just as much a part of the Occy story as, say, a searing backhand attack at Bells Beach. It’s odd to say that now, when surf brands have hit an all-time low in terms of cultural relevance, but I’ll always associate Occy with his longtime sponsor.

As always, thank you for reading Sagas of Shred, and give us another visit next Thursday night for more vintage surf ads!