In which, among other things, Mark Occhilupo admits his largest regret.
Gerard Butler stood at the urinal pissing a vigorous stream. He had been holding it in all the way down the red carpet, those infernal camera flashes flashing. Through the interviews. Past empty conversations with drones. Fame was a heavy burden. Heaviest, maybe, on his bladder.
But, for the moment, he was free and his flow was strong. He looked to his left and it was empty. And he looked to his right. There, he saw a handsome young man with a chestnut brown face and lips as soft as pillows.
“You in the biz?” he asked.
“No, I’m just Sterling,” the young man responded. “Abby’s brother.”
Gerard squinted his eyes, recognizing certain features shared by his most recent co-star Abby, or Abigail, Spencer. “I see it,” he confirmed, before continuing, “Do you know who Rob Lowe is? Damn it. You look just like Rob Lowe…”
The young man said nothing. Gerard kept looking at him, sighed his approval, then zipped up and waltzed into the night feeling like a new man.
Sterling Spencer also left, feeling very good but not because he had a satisfying micturition. He had, in fact, been unable to perform while Gerard Butler stared directly into his face. He felt very good because he was not Rob Lowe. He was, rather, what Rob Lowe dreamed of being. A professional surfer and he knew he was on the brink of his own total fame.
Surf has, for the past sixty years, held a unique place in America’s cultural mythology. It represents vitality, youth, sun, perfection in a way nothing else quite does. Tom Wolfe wrote it better, though, in his essay about La Jolla called The Pump House Gang. “Surf is yip yip yow and the bronzed surfer is a-oooooga a-oooooga honk honk zow!”
And even though surf is being represented everywhere these days, from Chanel to Mazda to Visa to the Point Break remake and even though everyone, including Rob Lowe, wants to be a surfer, surf’s true stars are unknown outside of the cloister. Kelly Slater would maybe get a second glance on the street but that is mostly because he dated Pamela Anderson. And Gisele Bundchen. And Cameron Diaz.
Sterling was born knowing that even though everyone wants to be a surfer, to become truly famous, as a surfer, is a very difficult nut. He knew because his father, Yancy III, is a legend in surf circles. Sometimes called “The Duke of Gulf” and other times the “Godfather of East Coast Surfing,” Yancy III brought the sport of kings to Floridian rednecks. A statue has been erected in his honor in the town of Pensacola. But outside, Yancy’s legend means nothing. Initially, Sterling didn’t care. He looked up to his dad and wanted to be a surfer just like him.
He had the skill and the inimitable style born of great genetics. He danced on waves. His turns were almost perfect and his airs were second to none. The people on the beach went crazy anytime Sterling paddled out. They just couldn’t get enough.
He started competing on the east coast National Scholastic Surf Association tour when he was very young. The E.C. NSSAs are, in many regards, more difficult than surfing’s World Championship Tour where Kelly Slater has won twelve titles, smashing a field of drunks and heroin addicts. The competition is stiffer in the NSSAs and the stakes higher. Sterling shrugged off the pressure and surfed better than anyone, eventually winning four titles in a row. He was sponsored by surfwear manufacturer Billabong and laughing all the way to the bank. He was getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to float in the ocean. Then he laughed at Billabong and traded them in for Rusty.
One night, though, fate intervened in the form of a centaur. Sterling says it was not dreaming. He says he was wide awake when he walked outside the family home to the woods. There, a half man, half horse approached him and said, “You will never be famous.” Sterling responded, “What? I’m four time NSSA champion. I’m sponsored by Billabong and someday Rusty.” but the centaur was unimpressed. He shook his head and said, “No. You will never be famous.” Sterling decided, then and there, to prove him wrong.
His older sister, Abby, had already taken a more direct route to fame via Hollywood. She has been lauded for roles in Mad Men, This Means War, Rectify, Oz the Great and Powerful and alongside Gerard Butler in Chasing Mavericks. Sterling, though, decided to get famous as a surfer. He quit competing knowing that anyone outside of the surf world could not care less about titles and started a blog showcasing his unique ability, soon winning Surfer Magazine’s Battle of the Blogs. He became a big swell daredevil, snagging one of the largest waves ever ridden in the world off the coast of Alabama. He was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. And he just finished filming his biopic titled “Gold.” James Franco recently caught a private screening and told Sterling, “I’m speechless. I’ve never seen anything this good in my entire life.” They subsequently became best friends.
Fame, real fame, is now within his grasp. Sterling is fairly nonchalant about it though, saying, “Surfing and being number one are really easy for me.” The ease can be seen in this film where a young Sterling finds his Occy. The greatest surf film of all time? Probably.