Leave it to good ol’ Occ to not overthink things! This ad, which ran in the December 1986 issue of Surfer Magazine (Vol 27, No 12), absolutely kills me. I also happen to think it’s a good summary of Occy’s considerable, offbeat charm. (For more Occy and Sagas of Shred, see here and here). Last, but not least, it’s also a great reminder of why Surfer Magazine has earned its title as “the Bible of the sport.” It’s no secret that the media business has been hit hard as of late, and sadly, times are looking tough for Surfer. The iconic magazine saw a round of layoffs earlier this month, and there are rumors that Surfer’s parent company is set to be acquired by AMI, which might be in a bit of trouble itself.
But rather than dwell on Surfer Magazine’s uncertain future, I’d like to celebrate all the incredible content it has put out over the years, including the ads that get posted here every Thursday evening. (It’s not too late to subscribe, either.) Almost all of the content in Sagas of Shred comes about from scanning ads from back issues of Surfer Magazine. This, of course, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the wonderful editorial output over the years, which has single handedly helped shape surf culture into what it is today. I don’t pretend to know the future of the media business, or how that relates to surfing, but it’s my sincere hope that Surfer Magazine continues to publish the same high quality content for many years to come.
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.
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!
Vintage Surfboards Hawaii surfboard by Dick Brewer shaped for Rabbit Bartholomew
Greetings, Shredderz! Those of you who follow me on Instagram may recognize the photo above from my Instagram account, where I posted it a few days ago. (You can check out the official Shred Sledz Instagram account here.) The photo was taken by Tom Servais on the North Shore of Oahu, and it features none other than Aussie legend Rabbit Bartholomew posing with some beautiful big-wave guns. As soon as I posted the photo, the current owner of the yellow board — a Surfboards Hawaii gun shaped by Dick Brewer — reached out and was kind enough to send over some more pictures. Thank you to Luke Carter for supplying the pics. If you’re interested in vintage surfboards and fast cars, give Luke a follow on Instagram!
As you can see, the board is still in great condition, even after all these years.
You can see a clear example of a Dick Brewer signature on the stringer, alongside some measurements. At 9’5″ x 20″ x 3-1/4″, the gun was clearly shaped for waves of consequence.
Luke was also kind enough to point me to a photo that gives some indication of when Brewer may have shaped this board. The photo above was supposedly taken at the opening ceremony for the Eddie Aikau contest at Waimea Bay held in the winter of 1989 / 1990.
I actually found a copy of the program for the 1989 / 1990 Eddie Aikau contest on eBay, and neither Occy nor Rabbit Bartholomew were invitees. Nonetheless, given Occy and Rabbit’s ages in the Joli photo above, I believe the photo was taken sometime during that decade. I suppose it’s also possible that Occy and Rabbit could have showed up to the Eddie’s opening ceremony with their boards in tow, but that would have been unusual given that is usually reserved for competitors.
Per the title of the blog post, Luke also tells me that apparently the board was originally shaped for Hawaiian big-wave charger Darrick Doerner. This theory makes a ton of sense. For starters, Bartholomew’s brash attitude initially made him a target in Hawaii, as documented in “Bustin’ Down the Door” and even a sketch on “Drunk History.” Moreover, Doerner was something of a Waimea Bay specialist — for which the Brewer board would have been an ideal fit — and also boasted a long association with Brewer. How the board would have made its way from Doerner to Rabbit is a mystery to me, but I’m glad it did, given the rad pictures that resulted!
I’d also love to know what happened to the other board in the picture at the top of the page. I love the splash of color on the Surfboards Hawaii logo. I’m assuming the board Rabbit’s sitting on must be another Dick Brewer, but without a picture of the stringer, there’s no way to be sure.
Thanks again to Luke Carter for the pictures. You can follow him on Instagram here.
I’m not usually one for repro boards, but hey, there are exceptions to every rule.
Located here on Craigslist is one of the Rusty Priesendorfer re-makes of a famous board he made back for Mark “Occy” Occhilupo back in 1984. This board is an exact replica and was made in conjunction with Rusty, Occ’s shaper back in the 80s, and Billabong, his longtime clothing sponsor. You can see the announcement here, which has some cool pics.
The dimensions are 6’0″ x 20″ x 2 ¼”, harkening back to a time when high performance thrusters had a lot more foam to them. The price is $425, which I think is decent, given that the board is limited – only 100 made – and it’s in pretty good condition, with the only visible wear and tear being a couple of heel dents from being surfed. (And part of me is stoked this thing didn’t just end up being a wall hanger!)
For reference, this board below is a Rusty board made for Occ sometime back in the 80s. This was originally posted to Boardcollector.com.
Here’s a shot of Occy in what I’m guessing is Hawaii back in the day: