OCCHILUPO CLEAN SWEEPS FOUR FINALS IN THE MALDIVES
Sultans, Kuda Huraa, Maldives, September 4th, 2011: 1999 World Champion Mark Occhiupo, 45, won the inaugural Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy today after a sensational week of serious surfing from six generational world champions. It was a clean sweep for -Occy' who won all three divisions of Single Fin, Twin Fin and Thrusters, before defeating world longboard champion Josh Constable (Noosa, Qld, Aus), 30, in the Grand Champions Final to take home $19,000 of the $25000 on offer.
On a picture-perfect Maldivian day, Sultans Point turned on epic conditions with four foot plus right hand reef break waves on offer for the third and final Thruster Division in the morning. Competition resumed in the late afternoon with the all-important Grand Champions Final staged in front of President of the Maldives, His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and members of his cabinet.
Occhilupo surfed smart and sharp in the final, putting it all on line, to narrowly hold out an in-form Constable who remained within striking distance until the siren. Constable held the heats highest wave score of 7.67 but failed to find a second scoring ride to hand Occhilupo a dream finish in the Maldives.
'Words can't explain how I feel right now, I feel like going back on tour,' said an elated Occhilupo. 'It was a tough competition. Josh was so good and I had some tight heats against Damien (Hardman) as well. MR (Mark Richards) beat me in one heat and Layne (Beachley) was surfing great as well'
'I didn't have one heat where I felt I was not under pressure. So all those memories of being on tour came back and I had to rely on my instincts to win this event and now that I have, I am over the moon,' added Occhilupo.
The world-renowned goofy footer, who excelled all week on the long right-handers with his powerful backhand attack, dedicated his win to Tony Hussein Hinde an Australian-born Maldivian surfer and surfing pioneer who passed away in 2008. Hinde is considered to be the "father of surfing in the Maldives and looked after Occhilupo on his first visit to the Island nation over a decade ago.
Constable, who was defeated by Occhilupo on four separate occasions, including three finals this week, was philosophical after the Grand Champions Final stating, 'I just couldn't get him, Occy is such a solid competitor. He was on his game all week. I felt solid in the final and I had a good score but couldn't get that back up so hats off to Occy.'
Both surfers celebrated by dancing with the President to the sounds of the traditional Maldivian Bodu Beru drummers.
'It was a perfect way to cap off an incredible week,' said Constable.
Occhilupo, who headed into the final day already having secured a Grand Final Champions berth was not about to rest on his laurels. An inspired -Raging Bull' carved his way into the Thruster final where he again defeated Constable.
Patience proved key, with Occhilupo waiting until the 7-minute mark before locking in his second scoring ride. The goofy footer who required an 8.10 score to reclaim the lead picked off one of the better set waves and surfed flawlessly with full rail to rail maneuvers to lock in a 9 point score and clean sweep of all three divisions.
Occhilupo admitted he had to regroup after a few errors, 'I made a couple of mistakes, including losing priority, and I had to tell myself to just calm down.'
'So I cleared my head and moved up the point where I needed to be and then a gem of a wave came through and I surfed it as good as I could and got that nine,' added Occhilupo.
Mark Occhilupo Surfing Sultans, Kuda Huraa, Maldives
Constable's runner-up result secured him a berth in the most prestigious final of the tournament. Only the top two ranked surfers at the end of the Single Fin, Twin Fin and Thrusters qualify for the Grand Champions Final.
Highly respected Australian surfer/shaper Simon Anderson developed the Thruster design, which was met with skepticism initially. Following enhancements in 1981, he won the Bells Beach Classic and the Surfabout in Sydney, then later the Pipe Masters in Hawaii. Those victories brought the Thruster to everyone's attention; from 1984 onward every world champion has used one.
Former two-time world champion Damien Hardman (Narrabeen, NSW, Aus) suffered from a spate of bad luck and close calls throughout the entire tournament. His end results did not depict the excellent surfing that the renowned goofy footer turned on throughout all divisions.
'It just hasn't been my week at all,' said Hardman. "I'm just waiting to get attacked by a shark next.'
Seven-time world champion Layne Beachley (Manly, NSW, Aus) was the lone female competitor in the six world champion field and was never underestimated by her opponents. From day one Beachley proved she could mix it up with the men finishing second to Occhilupo in the final of the Single Fin Division.
'It's been surreal competing against five male world champions and being a contender,' said Beachley. 'I knew it was always going to be challenging but I stepped it up and gave them a run for their money.
'The whole Maldives experience has been luxurious from the resort to the local surfers allowing us to take over their break. One of the best trips of my life, I never want to leave.'
Four-time world champion Mark -MR' Richards was forced to withdraw from the final day of action due to a hamstring injury incurred on the first day of competition.
President of the Maldives, His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed gave a heartfelt speech to the surfers stating, 'We are the people of the sea and for us the sea is never very far away. The Maldivian people are honored that you are here in this country and I would like to say that you are very welcome here and please keep coming.'
The Four Seasons Explorer luxury catamaran was the ideal event headquarters for the Tropicsurf crew to co-ordinate the unique tournament from all week.
Following the enormous success of the inaugural event Four Seasons Kuda Huraa has vowed to make the 2012 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy bigger and better next year.
Four Seasons Resorts Maldives wish to thank its kind co-sponsors of the 2011 Surfing Champions Trophy: HSBC, Billabong, Wataniya Telecom Maldives, Surfing World and Singapore Airlines.
Josh Constable Runner-Up l Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy
Photo Credit - Sean Scott