HISTORY: The Michael "Eppo" Eppelstun Interview
1993 World Champion Michael "Eppo" Eppelstun was the first Australian to win the bodyboarding world title, and considered an innovator of the sport. He is credited with inventing the Double Roll, the ARS, and the Backflip. Here, Eppo discusses his life leading up to his world title and the effect it had afterwards. This interview was conducted at the IBA Media House on the North Shore of Oahu on 24 February 2011 during the IBA Pipeline Pro.
STEVE JACKSON: With your championship in 1993, you won Pipeline and you won the world title. What was going on with your life at that time? Trying to get here, being here, the way the competition went down, becoming the first Australian to win at Pipe, tell me a little bit about what was going on with you.
EPPO: Back then, in 1993, I was a pastry cook. Actually, I wasn't a pastry cook. I gave it up four months prior to come over to Hawaii and give it a good bash. I was living on $75 a week back then. That was my life. When I came over, I was not the kid on the block. There was Ross Hawk. There was Barney (Paul Barnard). There was Bullet (Steve McKenzie). There was Matt Reilly. These were all the Aussie guys. I was the new kid on the block.
I remember walking down the beach when it wasn't big Pipe, it was probably only 3ft. Pipe. I remember Strohy (photgrapher Chris Stroh) coming up to me and he goes, "This is your day today." I went, "What?" He goes, "This is your conditions." Don't you reckon? He goes, "Yep." On the earlier days, I got through a couple of heats and just scraped through. I remember taking off on a wave. I'll never forget it. Marcello Pedro just pulled back on a closeout 10-footer. I'd had a shocker of a heat, and I just pulled in. I got a 2.0 for that wave and it got me through. I couldn't believe it! I was down and out, I got a 2.0, and it got me through into second position.
Back then, things were tough. You know? I wasn't sponsored, but I had to grow up the next year. I had this huge responsibility. I was world champion. I did a lot of promotion, and I did a lot of trying to help the sport. Australia boomed. Australia really boomed when there was an Australian world title, which was the first non-Hawaiian world champion back then. So, I've got a few firsts actually. A first Aussie, a first non-Hawaiian.
STEVE JACKSON: How did that win at Pipe, and winning the world title, change your life? How did it affect you afterwards?
EPPO: Emmensely. I became a professional then. Basically, I struggled with sponsorship. It took me eight months just to seal a sponsor, which was Manta Bodyboards back then. They came to the party, and I was loyal to them for over 12 years. Once I won that, that's when the professionalism came in. Like I said, I struggled with it. Someone tried to manage me, and it was a nightmare. I went down and met with three different types of media people. They didn't come to the party.
Then, I met a guy called Mike Perry. About three years prior, he was the editor of Riptide. He was, also, a consultant. I said, "Would you manage me?" He went, "Oh mate, to tell the honest truth it would be a waste of my time and your time. If you become someone in the sport or win a world title, come and see me." I remembered that!
I went and rung him up, and asked if I could go meet him. He said, "Yeah, alright, but I'm in a different time in my life right now. I'm not going to manage you." Long story short, three days later I'm still at his house and he goes, "You're not leaving, are you?" I go, "I'm world champion, and I'm living on $75 a week." He goes, "Okay, I'll do the negotiations for 10%, and that's it." I went, "Sweet!" The next year, I turned over $165,000.
STEVE JACKSON: That's a big change in finances.
EPPO: A huge change in finances, mate!
STEVE JACKSON: You've talked about going into that championship, and what happened afterwards. What was the celebration like? I know whenever someone wins a world title, it's definitely worthy of a major celebration, and I've heard rumors for years about your party afterwards. I want to hear it from the man himself. What was that celebration like after you won Pipeline?
EPPO: It was massive! I felt sorry for the Brazilian guy who had our house. We were living under his house. He let it go because he was super cool. It was massive until 11:30pm, when they told me they were taking me away because I was the life of the party. I said to the policeman, "You haven't met Aussies!" He just laughed. Yeah, the part was massive.
STEVE JACKSON: Thanks, Eppo, for taking the time to do this interview.
For more information about Eppo, click on these links:
PHOTO: Australian champs...1993 Pipeline/World Champion Mike "Eppo" Eppelstun and 1997 Pipeline Champion Steve "Bullet" McKenzie on the beach at Pipeline, February 2011.