• April 16, 2024 1:54 AM

 

[box][/box]

THE surfboard doesn’t fall far from the sea.

And it hasn’t for 11-year-old Jay Occhilupo, the son of surfing great Mark, who has just been signed to a deal with Billabong.

One of the youngest surfers to ever receive a sponsorship deal from the iconic brand, Jay joins a star stable including Joel Parkinson, Taj Burrow, and dad.

“I’m feeling stoked, I was hoping for it but I wasn’t expecting it so soon,” Jay said.

Mark Occhilupo was 14 when he was signed by Billabong more than 30 years ago.

“So it’s fitting for Jay to be in the Billabong team,” Mark said.

“It’s crazy how life turns out. When I signed my first deal, I was 14 and at that point I wouldn’t have dreamed of having kids, let alone having them sign a deal with Billabong earlier than I did.

“Jay started three years earlier than me, he was surfing by the time he was three, so he’s got a few years more experience than I had at his age, hence getting signed earlier than me.”

Jay Occhilupo in action. Source: Supplied
Jay Occhilupo in action. Source: Supplied

 

The 1999 world surfing champion, Occhilupo rode a career of ups and downs and believes Jay is determined enough to follow suit.

“He has got a lot of spirit,” Occhilupo said.

“In sport, there are a lot of highs and lows, you can’t win every single time, I told him that.

“When he loses, he’s not too bad, he is a good sport.

“I told him how hard it is going to be, it is not a given that he is going to make it to the top.

“But I know he is going to give it 110 per cent

“I am really proud of him, it is a special day.”

The initial two-year Billabong deal is just reward for Jay’s commitment to the sport, as he spends 40 hours a week in the surf.

“It is a memorable day for the family for him to get the sponsorship, he has been working really hard,” Mark Occhilupo said.

“He is surfing all day, every day when he is not at school. He spends six to seven hours a day in the water, and it’s paying off.”

While the Billabong deal is a significant step in young Jay’s career, Mark added that he wouldn’t be rushing off to buy sports cars.

“The big companies don’t like throwing big money at kids too early, it has happened before and sometimes the kids don’t live up to their potential,” Occhilupo said.

“We’ve tried to base it not around that, but Billabong will pay for coaching and throw in free clothes.”

Next up for Jay will be an event close to his heart; the Occy Grom Comp on the southern Gold Coast in June – an event named after his father.

“I went in it last year and had a shocker,” Jay said. “So I really want to do better this time.”

Watch Jay in action in an in-depth interview on the ASP Preview Show. Tuesday 6th May, 9.30pm on Fuel TV.

Source

  • JAMIE PANDARAM
  • THE DAILY TELEGRAPH