Newcastle, NSW, Australia, Wednesday 17th January 2013.
FORMER world champion and two-time winner of the Mark Richards trophy Mark Occhilupo has confirmed with organisers that he intends to compete at the 6-Star Burton Toyota Pro that gets underway at Merewether beach next month.
The 46-year-old goofy footer – who has racked up a total prize purse in professional surfing of more than a million dollars – is currently occupying the 68th spot on the Association of Surfing Professional’s men’s world rankings.
That ranking means he will move to the business end of the competition at Surfest’s Burton Toyota Pro and is guaranteed of a pay-day.
Occy sits in the top 100 surfers in the world thanks largely to an outstanding third in last year’s Margaret River competition and a ninth placing at Trestles.
“Please don’t call it a comeback – it’s just me scratching a competitive itch that still burns and I know I can still perform at a high level,” Occy said today from the Gold Coast, where he was hitting the gym with long-term friend and reigning world champion Joel Parkinson.
“I’m the first to admit my fitness has got a way to go, but I am putting the work in and I’m surfing well.
“I surfed a lot of big waves in the Hawaiian season and I’ve dropped a few kilos over the past month.
“I’ll see how it goes, but for now I’ll surf the Aussie leg of the ASP tour. I’m pretty keen to surf comps in Jeffreys Bay in South Africa and Trestles later this year,” he said.
“But Newcastle is special to me. I have got a lot of friends there and of course I have some great memories of competition,” Occhilupo said.
While the final line-up of surfing talent planning to stop Occy standing atop the winner’s dais won’t be known until all entries have been received, organiser Warren Smith said he was over-the-moon that Occy will be wearing the coloured singlet at the Burton Toyota Pro.
“Occy loves Newcastle and Newcastle feels the same about him. If we get a swell with some grunt where he can smash some of his trademark carves, Occy will be a front-runner in the competition for sure,” Mr Smith said.
About the 2013 Surfest Newcastle Australia
The 2013 Surfest Newcastle Australia features the Burton Toyota Pro (Men’s ASP 6-Star) and the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic (Women’s ASP 6-Star), along with eight supporting events. The event is made possible with the support of Burton Toyota, the Hunter Sports Sports Group, Newcastle City Council and the NSW Government through Destination NSW. Surfest Newcastle Australia is conducted over 12 days from February 13-24 at Merewether beach, a recognised Australian National Surfing Reserve. Merewether is home to festival patron and Australia’s most accomplished men’s world professional surfing champion, four-time world champion Mark Richards (1979-82) and presents the winner a trophy in his likeness. 2013 marks the festival’s 28th year and with over 800 national and international competitors, Surfest Newcastle Australia is the largest festival of surfing in the southern hemisphere. Get up-to-the minute updates, photos and interviews, as well as the program of events at surfest.com or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.