Property Industry and Mark Occhilupo Make a Splash for Dementia Research

Wipeout Dementia hits $2 million raised with 64 heavy hitters raising nearly $350,000 to support critical research into Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias led by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA).

| 29 Mar 2022

The Surf Off event was sponsored by Morgans FinancialAvenorAoyuan InternationalAWM Commercial FurnitureBuildcorpm3propertySense ProjectsShape AustraliaWinten Property Group with event partners Colliers InternationalKennards Hire and Hurley

The 2022 event continued the initiative’s track record of success reaching $2 million raised for The Dementia Momentum, with industry representatives joining from over 50 organisations including Morgans, Lendlease, Buildcorp, Colliers International, UBS, CBRE and Aoyuan.

This year 1999 World Surfing Champion Mark Occhilupo competed in the event, generously auctioning off the board he rode in the 2019 Bells Beach Heritage Heat against American pro-surfer Tom Curren.

“The evolution of Wipeout Dementia across the property industry has been inspirational and humbling,” said Spokesman for The Dementia Momentum and Ambassador, Dr Richard Grellman AM, Chairman of IPH Limited and former Chairman of The Association of Surfing Professionals (International) Limited, whose wife Suellen has advanced young onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Funding for dementia research still lags considerably behind other conditions, despite it being the single greatest cause of disability burden in Australia, the leading cause of death among women and the second leading cause of death overall.

Dr Richard Grellman AM

“Industry partnerships are fundamental to the future landscape of this disease and we are exceptionally grateful to the property industry,” said Dr Grellman.

A number of awards were announced on the day including the prestigious ‘Gnarly Award’, a Mark Richards 1980 replica twin fin surfboard which was awarded to highest fundraiser Michael Gordon, General Manager of Buildcorp Interiors.

In an extraordinary display of commitment Gordon personally raised over $30,000 for the cause and took his Buildcorp sponsored team to highest fundraising glory – with over $90,000 raised by the group and taking home a 5 hour private charter on a Sydney to Hobart winning yacht generously donated by Jim Cooney.

A competition DHD surfboard signed by Ambassadors Richard Grellman and Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew went to David Kemp of Buildcorp, former NFL player Colin Scotts, Avenor Director Peter Clemesha and UBS Managing Director Michael Hendrie, who were the other top fundraisers in this round (all raising over $10,000).

The 2022 Surf Off championship team was led by Avenor Director Peter Clemesha, the driver behind the property industry events. Clemesha’s team also won the Battle Royale, which saw 64 surfers hit the water at once to compete for waves.

CHeBA Co-Directors, Professor Henry Brodaty and Professor Perminder Sachdev attended the event, which aims to increase awareness about the modifiable risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias while driving research funds to harness global research to prevent dementia.

A number of projects received a funding boost as a result of the March 2022 event, including the expansion of international studies under The Dementia Momentum initiative, particularly the continuation of research looking at successful brain ageing for those living to 100 and beyond. CHeBA’s ambition is to spearhead an international effort to promote successful brain ageing and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Funds raised from this Wipeout Dementia will also provide funding to expand CHeBA’s twins research, which has been significant in determining the proportion of risk of Alzheimer’s disease that can be attributed to our genetic makeup compared to the proportion that can be attributed to lifestyle.

"Wipeout Dementia fundraising has been the launch pad for a significant number of priority research projects across CHeBA’s international consortia spanning more than 30 countries," says Professor Henry Brodaty.

The reality of dementia: many surfers rode their waves in honour of a loved one. 

Competitor in previous property industry events, and first-time team Captain, AWM Commercial Furniture Director Anthony Scotts surfed in honour of his late father who lost a 20-year long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and for his sister Jill who is significantly impacted by young onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

His team, aptly named Bob & Jill’s Line Up, was a family affair - with his brothers and nephews, including sons of Jill – all riding the wave in support of medical research. 

“It’s horrifying to learn that since 2016, dementia has been the leading cause of death in Australian women. That is particularly close to my heart as my sister is living in a home at just 66 years of age and she’s basically helpless. 

“I’ve got to do everything I can to help her in every possible way,” says Scotts.

Steve Watson, Director of Steve Watson & Partners, celebrated the memory of his father who passed away from Lewy Body dementia in early 2019; soon after Steve took his team to highest fundraising glory in Wipeout Dementia. 

“It was terrible to see him robbed of his vitality,” says Watson. “It’s pervasive, this disease, and not enough is being done given how debilitating it is.”

General Manager of Ziff Davis, James Whitehead, lost his grandmother following years of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 

“I was honoured to surf in her memory and help raise awareness about the relationship between physical activity and the prevention or delaying the onset of dementia,” said Whitehead.

Fiona Hunt lost her Dad, Leo, in 2015 following what seemed to their family an eternity of living with dementia. “My Dad was proud, a gentleman, very polite and very old fashioned. 

“I miss him immensely and still shed tears for both of us; I know he would have been embarrassed if he was aware of what this cruel disease had done to his mind.”

These stories where lives have been upended and relationships destroyed further highlight the significance of Wipeout Dementia and the importance of research to prevent this devastating illness.

Photography by Sprout Daily.