The Real Clash Of The Titans

Still a big draw, after all these years. Joli

When it comes to rivalries, it's hard to surpass Tom Curren and Mark Occhilupo. From riot-inducing heats at the U.S. Open to their 1986 semifinal at Bells Beach that's considered by some to be the greatest competitive heat ever surfed, Curren and Occy have been at it for the better part of three decades now. And last year the fire was stoked anew when Billabong introduced the "Clash of the Icons" -- a speciality event held during the Billabong Pro South Africa. That grudge match ended in a tie between the the two 40-something surfers and garnered rave reviews from fans and industry watchers alike. Proving good ideas don't die -- they just get turned into sequels -- Occy and Curren are back at it this year, ready to do battle at the Rip Curl Pro. But don't take our word for it. Here's what Occy himself had to say:

So Occy what have you been doing since the Quikky Pro?
I went to Newcastle then Margaret River. I've been thinking about the match big time.

So it's been playing on your mind a bit?
Yeah it's been playing a lot. I've been having this reoccurring dream.

Yeah so funny hey! I'm in Bells carpark. I go to shake his hand and he usually gives me the softest handshake. So I shake his hand and he gives me a firm grip and doesn't let go. He then walks me through the carpark without letting go of my hand the whole time!

Very strange! Any idea what it means?
Not just yet. I think I'll work it out when I get down there.

Have you been doing any training for the heat?
Not a lot. I'm doing this program with Billabong called Featured, which is going on MTV. They're doing one on Taj Burrow, Shane Dorian and Donavon Frankenreiter. And one about this whole match-up. They asked me if I'd been training and I was like, "Not really, I'm not really the training guy." So they got me to workout right in front of them ... I was running down the street, even cutting laps in a pool for them.

So you haven't really been digging the training part?
Yeah, I'm too busy concentrating on putting the tie to rest.

So give me a quick run down of the famous match-ups you've had against Tom.
The heat everyone talks about was at Bells in 1986 and Tom beat me. We had many match-ups after that. Then last year at Jeffreys Bay we had two heats against each other. One early morning when it was 3-4 foot. Tom beat me. Then one before the final and I beat him.

So right now you're tied?
It's almost like the Davis Cup. It's an unbreakable tie. I want to break it. I want to put it to rest.

So you've still got a lot of competitive fire in your belly?
Oh for sure I have a lot! I'm two years retired and Tom even more. This is the big one. I've been trying to surf smooth like Tom lately, but I'm more erratic. The only way I'm going to beat him is by surfing erratic and powerful, because you can't beat him at his own game.

Bells usually requires a different board than what you'd be riding at home on the Gold Coast. Are you feeling confident with your equipment?
Yeah I'm feeling confident. I've got rooms of really good JS boards. I actually broke my special board at Margaret River last week when the waves were big ... my channel bottom. So I can't revert to my favorite board. But give me any of my JS' and I'm good to go.

Does it take you long to adjust from the punchy beachies and hollow points of Queensland to Bells' flatter walls?
Nah it's second nature for me. If Bells Bowl is on I'll be there -- just give me a board.

Any dirty tactics planned? Baby Oil? Shampoo?
No. Everyone's been joking about it. But nah there's no dirty tactics. Kill him with kindness maybe! It's a friendly match. But you never know, when I get down there I might pull out some weird tactic, but I don't think so. Nah, no way!

You've got your trademarked power based style, but are you going to throw in a few new-school moves to woo the crowd?
Yeah, if I land an air-reverse I'm only joking!

That would be all-time!
Nah it's all about big powerful moves, unpredictability and keeping the judges guessing. That's all I've got, that's my only weapon.

Do you think Tom's nervous about coming up against you again?
I wouldn't know, he doesn't give much away ... you'd have to ask him!

Are you and Tom good friends? Is he the kind of mate you'd sit down and have a beer with?
Yeah he's so introverted. We're not best mates or anything, but we have a lot of respect for each other. I've had a couple of beers with him over the years and he's really funny. If he's in the right mood he's one of the funniest guys to be around with his music and things. His music is unbelievable. Usually he's pretty introverted and you don't get much out of him.

Is coming up against Tom in the Clash of the Icons something you want to keep doing until you can't do it any more?
(Laughs) Nah nah no no. I want to break this tie and put it to rest. Everyone wants it to be ongoing like the Davis Cup, but I'd love to just win and put it to sleep. He's a much better surfer than me personally. There might not be a trophy, but it would be so good to get this win and be over with it.

Let's just say that you don't win. Would you like another chance?
Nah I would be sweet. No matter what happens I will be good with it.

So this is it? This is the final between Occy and Curren?
I reckon this is it!