"It was emotional," Occhilupo said after the fanfare. "I was just feeling so good in my heat not thinking I was going to have to make this speech right now, but that's just how my year has been going so I shouldn't have been thinking like that. Troy got a great wave at the end so I had to kind of ace up and get ready for the time that I've been kind of regretting."
Occhilupo, who at age 41 is the oldest full-time competitor on tour, was 17 when he finished 16th in the world in 1983. The following year, he was rated No. 3 and the year after he would win at Pipeline. However, too much too soon would prove to be near-fatal for Occhilupo who battled demons and dropped off the tour in 1987. A decade of failed attempts to regain his winning form went by before a rejuvenated and focused Occhilupo retook the ASP World Tour by storm in 1997 and finished runner-up to Kelly Slater. In 1999, Occhilupo won three of his 12 World Tour victories to post one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history by winning the ASP World Title at the age of 33.
"I really love competing and I'll definitely miss that as much as my friends I've made on tour," Occhilupo said. "It's just been such a good ride, it's been about 15 years on and off, but the time I took off and then came back and won my World Title, that was probably the best. No regrets, it's been sensational and just to have all my friends on the beach today, I know they probably had to get up early to make it down here this morning, but they're all there so that's something that I'll treasure and remember forever."
Brooks, who is rated 37th and will need to advance out of several more heats if he is to requalify for the ASP World Tour in 2008, is just one of several surfers stuck in do-or-die situations at the Billabong Pipeline Masters.
World No. 29, Phil Macdonald, beat Hawaiian wildcard Flynn Novak to significantly increase his chances for an '08 berth today.
"It's hard to against anyone out here, not just the wildcards, but I'm just going into it with nothing to lose," Macdonald said. "I have everything to gain and I know I can do it. I've made the final here once before. I'm just going to keep my head down and try to position myself to get the right waves, that's all I can really do for myself."
Further down the ratings in 33rd place, local surfer Fred Patacchia (HAW) helped his cause when he beat 2003 Pipeline Masters winner Jamie O'Brien (HAW).
"I've always wanted to win a Pipeline competition," Patacchia said. "I grew up going to school right here across the street at Sunset elementary. I used to skip school just to watch this event. Right now I'm actually below the bubble, sitting about 33rd. I don't really know what I need to do to requalify but I'm not too worried about it. I feel like I should have been doing something before it came down to this, I'm really just letting things happen and trying to surf smart heats. If I make it I make it, if I don't I don't, I've already entered into three WQS events next year. I'm just going to surf the best I can and do what I can."
Surfers who needed big results at Pipeline to requalify but fell short today were Brazilians Raoni Monteiro and Victor Ribas. Shaun Cansdell (AUS) and Gabe Kling (USA) who bowed out of the event yesterday, are two more competitors who did not make the cut for the 2008 ASP World Tour. Surfers like Danny Wills (AUS) and Ricky Basnett (ZAF) are also teetering on the edge having exited with 33rd place points with surfers like Macdonald, Pattachia and Bruce Irons (HAW) still surfing. Royden Bryson (ZAF), Adriano de Souza (BRA) finished last at Pipeline and didn't requalify via the World Tour, but will be back in 2008 courtesy of ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) results.
Dayyan Neve (AUS), like Luke Munro (AUS), is in limbo for qualifying for the World Tour next year via his WQS result. Both surfers will only make the World Tour if the current number of double qualifiers (meaning surfers who are in a position to qualify via both their World Tour and WQS results) stays the same. Neve looked to be backing himself on the World Tour too when he posted the highest heat total of the day 17.43 out of 20.00. He'll have to make it to the Billabong Pipeline Masters Final to have a decent chance of finishing in the Top 27.
The ASP 'Dual Heats' format that was inspired by 8X ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA) was used again today. Slater gave his two cents on it after eliminating Mikey Bruneau (HAW) in the first heat of the day.
"I think it's working out, it's pretty new to everyone, and it will take some time for the surfers and the fans to really understand it, but it's pretty simple," Slater said. "You get this warm-up phase, you get a priority phase, then you're done. I think there was more worry about it beforehand than actual problems when we ran it. There is more hassle in four man heats. I think this format just gives everyone a little bit more space to feel more relaxed in their heats, allowing them to surf more out there."
Sixteen heats of Round 4 are next on the agenda. A full day's worth of surfing remains before competition will be finished. Another call will be made at 7am tomorrow.
Billabong Pipeline Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17 def. Mikey Bruneau (HAW) 6.10
Heat 2: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 17.43 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 6.57
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.60 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 13.50
Heat 4: Troy Brooks (AUS) 9.94 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 8.93
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.50 def. David Wassell (HAW) 3.56
Heat 6: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 7.16 def. Tim Reyes (USA) 7.10
Heat 7: Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.67 def. Bobby Martinez (USA)10.93
Heat 8: T.J. Barron (HAW) 13.34 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 5.17
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.50 def. Myles Padaca (HAW) 4.90
Heat 10: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.33 def. Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 10.10
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.34 def. Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 4.67
Heat 12: Chris Ward (USA) 12.50 def. Gavin Gillette (HAW) 8.90
Heat 13: Mikala Jones (HAW) 10.00 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 5.47
Heat 14: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 16.67 def. Flynn Novak (HAW) 15.33
Heat 15: Gavin Beschen (HAW) 13.33 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.33
Heat 16: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) 11.67 def. Danny Fuller (HAW) 6.77
Billabong Pipeline Masters Round 4 Match- Ups:
1: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. TJ Barron (HAW)
Heat 2: CJ Hobgood (USA) vs. Greg Emslie (ZAF)
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Laurie Towner (AUS)
Heat 4: Luke Stedman (AUS) vs. Cory Lopez (USA)
Heat 5: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Ian Walsh (HAW)
Heat 6: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
Heat 7: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Josh Kerr (AUS)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Troy Brooks (AUS)
Heat 9: Pancho Sullivan (HAW) vs. Bernardo Mirando (BRA)
Heat 10: Tom Whitaker (AUS) vs. Dayyan Never (AUS)
Heat 11: Bruce Irons (HAW) vs. Chris Ward (USA)
Heat 12: Kally Slater (USA) vs. Mikala Jones (HAW)
Heat 13: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) vs. Neco Padaratz (BRA)
Heat 14: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Gavin Beschen (USA)
Heat 15: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Gabe Kling (USA)
Heat 16: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)