Surf: “Average” 3- to 4-foot, perfect, sheet glass Teahupo’o barrelsEvents held: NoneNature’s call: Hallelujah!Predicted: Excited to see Thursday — word is it’ll be better than “average”Mark Occhilupo sits at pole position. He’s upright, with his classic Italian underbite protruding and looking well-satisfied. Further up the reef a set of head-high groove-tubes come firing through. “Young buck” Shane Dorian slowly begins to whip around. “Anyone on this one?”Occy gives him the nod. Dorian does a no-paddle fall-in and disappears. “Ah, that’s the one,” Occ says contentedly to see his friend into a good one.As the next wave rears into a right-angled, dark blue lump, the entire crowd of top professional surfers let out a unified hoot. The Occ takes two charismatic strokes to follow the track of Dorian’s wave in royal style. A good number of seconds pass before he flies into the channel to hear the bit of joy such a ride can bring into the world. Whether you want to believe it or not, this is what these guys do for a living.
With the now legendary Billabong Pro Teahupo’o tentatively scheduled for an 8 a.m. Tuesday start, today is what they call a lay day. To them, the aforementioned surf is just barley good by their standards. They’re already jaded from an event — now in its fifth year — that’s seen the superhuman feats of Cory Lopez, gravity-defying drops from Andy Irons, continued greatness courtesy of Mr. Kelly Slater and the unrelenting consistency of super senior Mark Occhilupo. They’ve seen way too much to get excited over perfect, slightly overhead barrels — they know they need to save their adrenaline for when it really gets serious. So, for now, the 44 can be found in various forms of lazing around the various rentals clustered at Tahiti’s “End of the Road.” And why wouldn’t they? Dead last place (or equal 33rd) is still worth 3,000 U.S. greenbacks — easily enough for yet another happy vacation here in French Polynesia. What does your surf-satisfied correspondent have to say? Well, beside all that you just read, not too much. The water is 85 degrees, the papaya I just ate is fresh on my fingertips and, somewhere out beyond this jungle island, the waves are just right. Some might call it the Life of Riley. But that would be an understatement. This is the life of Occy.– Hagan Kelley[For more info, go to Billabong’s website.]