Mark Occhilupo in The Occumentary
Mark Occhilupo in Jack McCoy's 1999 epic The Occumentary.

Interview: Jack McCoy on touring seminal film The Occumentary with “cross-dressing Italian Scotsman from Kurnell”!

"If people are coming to see high-definition don't bother. Because this is film! It's got grain! It's got life to it!"

It might be real hard to believe, and such is the passage of time, but Mark Occhilupo is a couple of years off turning sixty and it’s been a quarter century since he won his historic world title in 1999.

Warshaw’s EOS describes Occ as being “built like a duck” and surfing “like a big cat.”

To celebrate the milestone, Occ, who described himself in a Sean Doherty profile as a “little cross-dressing Italian Scotsman from Kurnell”, and the film’s creator Jack McCoy, are touring the seminal film The Occumentary along the east coast of Australia in May.

Apart from one initial screening of The Occumentary, it’ll be the first time the film has been seen in cinemas. McCoy says he’s spent “hundreds of hours” turning the film from its VHS-friendly 4:3 aspect to big-screen 16:9.

“If people are coming to see high-definition don’t bother. Because this is film! It’s got grain! It’s got life to it!” McCoy tells me from his farm on the mid-North Coast (geographic specifics he asks me not to mention, but it’s a pretty forty acres a few minutes from real fun warm-water waves).

The tour will be in McCoy’s usual format, lives stories, unseen clips, question sessions slated for thirty minutes that go for way longer ’cause everyone in the theatre is enthralled by the electricity of sitting among legends.

Anyway, I say to Jack, oowee, can you believe Occ is nearly sixty (Jack turns seventy-six this year, his first big film Tubular Swells hit screens in 1975)?

“Well, he’s my son, you know, as he gets older so do  I,” he laughs. “But, I don’t have to tell you, he’s one of a kind. He’s fit and strong and clean and he just gets better with age. The only thing that doesn’t age is his childlike mind.”

Jack tells an excellent anecdote of Occ drinking vodka out of a coconut that he bought off a street vendor in Rio while he watched the heat that would decide whether or not he’d be the champ.

“You gotta come to the show to hear the end of it,” says Jack. “Unless you got Google.”

Jack famously got Occ, who ballooned out to three hundred pounds, off the couch in 1995 and back in training. There’s a great sequence of bubble Occ throwing buckets in The Occumentary.

Famously, Jack and Billabong’s Gordon Merchant created the Billabong Challenge series as a way of testing Occ against seven of the world’s best. The one-day format, two one-hour heats and a one-hour final, created a template that should’ve been adopted by the ASP. 

“And the judges didn’t even have a pen and paper,” says Jack. “At the end, they came to a consensus as to who was the winner. When good surfers watch a heat, even if it’s close, they can tell you in what order who the best guys were.”

Jack says it’s a system that works better than the usual way of scoring heats in the pro game.

“The general public doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Oh, he needs a three point two to combo a five point six, this and that. The guy rides a wave and you can’t tell the difference. I had an event that took care of those things. The Billabong Challenge was as good a templet for a contest as there ever was.”

He reminds me of his and Derek Hynd’s rebel tour in 2001 that included Kelly Slater and Andy Irons.

“We had a tour that was ready to go and then 9/11 came and it closed down all sport and it had a major impact on economies around the world,” says Jack.

“It was a limited number of surfers who would be the upper echelon with the ASP kept as a feeding ground. The art of surfing instead of the sport of surfing. It wasn’t like we were trying to take over the ASP (now the WSL). We were trying to set a different course for surfing that wasn’t… (Jack takes a long theatrical yawn)… let me yawn here, typical event.”

Like Occy, one of a kind, ol Jackie McCoy.

Tour dates for The Occumentary below.

And, book here. 

Tour dates:

Wednesday, May 1 – The J, Noosa
Thursday, May 2  – Byron Theatre, Byron Bay
Sunday, May 5 – HOTA, Gold Coast
Wednesday, May 8 – Gala Cinema, Wollongong
Thursday, May 9 – Event Cinema, Newcastle
Friday, May 10 – Orpheum Cinema, Sydney
Saturday, May 11 – Avoca Beach Theatre, Central Coast
Wednesday, May 15 – Astor Theatre, Melbourne
Friday May, 17 – Lorne Theatre, Surf Coast

Wilbur Kookmeyer and France's Olympic surf team uniform!
Wilbur, left, in the nineteen nineties and, right, reimagined for France's surf Olympians.

Controversy and shock as France unveils surf team’s Paris 2024 outfits

Surf culture reimagined!

The fashion and surf worlds were thrown into a terrific spin yesterday with the unveiling of Stephane Ashpool’s Olympic uniforms for Paris 2024. 

The designer, Stephane Ashpool, is the creator of the baseball-influenced Pigalle brand, so-named after the gritty neighbourhood he grew up in (notoriously dangerous for our Jewish brothers but, then, so is all of France), but also an excellent part of town to find a gender non-specific pal for affectionate kissing after a long day examining La Joconde at the Louvre or climbing the Tour Eiffel. 

Ashpool used the ol red-white-and-blue, the colours of the tricolour, but merged the colours into a gradient to reflect, he says, “a sense of diversity in colour, but also diversity in the body.”

The designer says France’s diversity ain’t always obvious on TV and films there, which is true.

Watch a French film, which are among the worst in the world, and you’d think the joint was filled with middle-class whites in fitted raw denim, tight pale blue shirts and brown boots, not the cornucopia of African and Arabic culture that it really is. 

The beautifully named Le Coq Sportif, the athletic rooster, have made the outfits but one set stood out, the surf team’s nod to kook chic.

The unfortunate model, pictured below, red hair permed and dyed yellow, beard its natural red, stands, belly out, in the white rash shirt and knee-length trunks, surfboard held non-ironically with tail scraping the ground.

A necklace and Oakley Blades completes an ensemble that hasn’t been seen in the surf world since Wilbur Kookmeyer was a staple of surf culture. 

French Olympic surf team uniform
France reimagines surf culture with controversial uniform for country’s Olympic surf team.

But is it the worst Olympic uniform ever?

Crappier than the Spaniards’s Maccas-themed gear in 2012 or Canada’s gay cowboy look at Calgary, 1988? 

The French team is a dark horse fav to win double gold at Teahupoo in July.

It includes Tahitians Kauli Vaast and Vahine Fierro, as well as Hossegor’s Joan Duru and Johanne Defay from Renton Island. All of ‘em know how to thread a tube. 

With Surfline down, account managers entirely confused as to "when to go."
With Surfline down, account managers entirely confused as to "when to go."

World’s largest surf website collapses as conspiracy theories swirl!

Surfline goes down.

Surfline has long been the gold standard of surf websites. The tool, which started as a lowly pay-per-call phone line, transformed itself into a dominant force at the dawn of the internet age and is now the ubiquitous face of “knowing when to go” what with account managers from Malibu to Manasquan logging on to check camera angles of where they might be surfing if they weren’t managing accounts.

The Huntington Beach-based behemoth received a $30 million investment from the Chernin Group in 2020, became the “official forecasting partner” of the World Surf League soon thereafter and brilliant bright skies all around.

All around, that is, until hours ago when the juggernaut mysteriously disappeared from computer and phone screens worldwide.

Account managers met with an ominous message declaring “Internal Server Error” and mansplaining “Looks like we’re having a few issues here, thanks for noticing. Rest assured we’ve been notified of this problem.”

Except rest was all but assured and as happens in this day and age, theories immediately floated as to the cause of those “few issues.”

A powerful, though cloaked, surf voice openly wondered if the problem was excellent surf in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California thereby forcing too many advertisements onto the server and crashing the system. Others pondered that Surfline’s long association with the aforementioned Huntington Beach had led to cyber attacks. Surf City, USA, as you might know, has recently pivoted to a culture war zone where breast cancer survivors are routinely harassed.

Whatever the reason, many hundreds, if not thousands, were made very sad.

Were you among them?

What is your assumption as to what went wrong?

Please share.

Channel Islands astounds surf watchers by releasing funniest skit since Doped Youth!

Introducing the Small Wave Support Group.

Channel Islands is as blue chip a surf brand as there ever was. Fine boards from the mind, though the hands, of the legendary Al Merrick that made Kelly Slater a household name and the tri hexagon logo a symbol of desire, of excellence. That heritage passed down to son Britt who, along with Channel Islands’ rider-owners, has continued to push innovation and style.

(Listen to Britt Merrick speak about “crushing it as a high-school LSD dealer and chasing sin on a motorcycle here. Britt, see, was busted for dealing LSD in high school, five dollars a tab, he thinks was the sale price, and talks about his Daddy and Mama’s conversion to Christianity in prison after they got busted hustling weed across the Mex border; how an unspeakable tragedy turned him back onto shaping, first, with Reynolds, then as CI’s gun shaper; and the wisdom borne from killing animals for food. “Every time you eat, something has to die, ” says Britt.)

Three years ago, Britt Merrick and senior members of the Channel Islands management team, employees and teamriders bought back the Channel Islands brand from Burton snowboards.

“We look forward to the day when CI returns home to the Merrick family, and we know the brand will be in good hands with Britt Merrick, Scott Anderson and the dedicated employees and teamriders at Channel Islands,” said Burton owner Donna Carpenter.

Peak cool.

But who imagined the team at Channel Islands had the capability of delivering the funniest surf skit since Adam Blakey’s Doped Youth?

No, not me but here we are and watch this gorgeous shot over Filipe Toledo’s bow.

Teahupo’o, here we come.

And, in case you missed it twenty years back, a little flashback to Doped Youth.

The Elstons.
The Elstons.

Son of surfboard shaper shocks world with sledgehammer performance at snowboard spectacular Natural Selection!

U Can't Touch This.

Stage Two of Natural Selection ran today from the Revelstoke backcountry and curb stomped our besieged World Surf League. Again. It was a better day of action, smoother, more fun, exciting, deserving of superlative made all the more amazing considering the camera feed went to hell three-quarters of the way through. Even still, no line was missed, the announcing team of Todd Richards, Pat Bridges, Ed Leigh, Leanne Pelosi, Mary Walsh and Eddie Wall honestly described the action expertly, keeping quiet when quiet was in order, opined openly on the judging and crushed beers in the booth at the end.

Turbo snowmobiles and Rivian trucks were given away instead of the outside possibility of one mid-size cooler and the burning flame of a cherished, albeit absurdist, pursuit fed with gasoline.

There was an avalanche right before the show began, chewing through a fifth of the ridable terrain. It was pointed out by true snowboard journalist Mikey Nixon, after my young daughter and I had boot packed the 3/4 miles out of bounds to the venue, and described in ways that terrify the surfing soul.

Snow ain’t whitewash.

I was in awe of the force though more in awe staring up at what was left. What the brave few would soon come down. Watching the finest backcountry snowboarding on film, Jeremy Jones’ Higher, The Art of Flight, etc. can lull the dabbler into a passive sense that we, too, can slide mountains covered in fluff. Film, of course, flattens and, no, we cannot, too, do anything other than shriek and dab the corners of our tear welled eyes.

Norway’s wizard Torstein Horgmo dropped first followed by multi-time Canadian Olympic and X-Game gold medalist Mark McMorris. The entire draw was filled with legends, both of lore and mainishstream success. Making it to Natural Selection a badge of honor that trumps other accomplishments. The riders might get the aforementioned Rivian or sled but what they really go for is the respect of their fellow travelers. The hoots from the tiniest handful of people on earth who actually know what a graceful line down the face of insanity means.

The ride of the day to my eye, a sledgehammer dropped by one of our own adjacent. Jared Elston, from Bend, Oregon, is the son of Simon Elston, and Australian shaper who crafts boards for the likes of Gerry Lopez. Elston, the boy, is one of the younger in the draw, making his run that much more incredible. Riding Travis Rice-approved mountains, knowing when to bob, when to weave, when to fly, takes years upon years of experience. Elston, only 25 years in the pocket, not only lived but danced.

Jared Elston, yikes. Photo: Tom Monterosso/Natural Selection
Jared Elston, yikes. Photo: Tom Monterosso/Natural Selection

The pen below, and its legends, exploding in a roar, when he slid in at the end.

Elston will be moving on to Stage Three, or the finals, which will air April 4th, and, as a surfer, you should tune in and cheer him to victory.

You should also watch yesterday’s banger in full and curse the World Surf League.