Mark Occhilupo Prepares For Battle against Tom Curren

Clash of The Icons

"Where's the salad dressing?"

"Occ, I told you, we don't have any." He gets up wordlessly from the table and shuffles into the kitchen.

"Watch this," says Wes Berg, Parko's trainer and Occy's J-Bay housemate.

Occ grabs the bottle of olive oil and proceeds to pour a cup of the stuff into a jar. He then grabs a clove of garlic, roughly cuts it up and throws it in. The finishing touch is added with a sprinkling of pepper. Voila, salad dressing, Cronulla style. He stirs it and walks back out to his plate. He generously pours the viscous concoction over his salad, then offers it around the giggling table in order to Parko, Luke Egan and Wes. I ask if he's going to take on Paul Newman and the salad dressing mafia.

"Have I told ya? I've got my own chilli sauce coming out. Some guy wants to put my name on the bottle." Immediately I picture a bottle of olive oil with a mashed chilli in it and Occy's big underbite grin beaming out from the label.

While salad dressing may not be his caper, surfing J-Bay certainly is. I sat down with Occ for an hour yesterday afternoon and he hit play on the past 20 years at J-Bay. It was one of the more entertaining hours of my life. After being dragged here as a kid by Billabong founder Gordon Merchant, Occ soon took a shine to the place and has been back virtually every year since. He won the Country Feeling contest here in his first year, 1984, and over the course of the ensuing five years J-Bay was responsible for half a dozen moments out here at Supertubes that have not only defined his career, but surfing itself. There's little doubt his surfing in the '87 Country Feeling would win him the Billabong Pro this week.

But for the time being, winning his exhibition seniors heat with Curren will do. For a half-hour of shits and giggles, Occ is taking the whole thing reasonably seriously. "At the press conference Kelly asked me if I wanted to sit next to Tom. I thought about it for a second... hang on, aren't I supposed to surfing against the guy? I told him I was happy to stay up the other end of the table." Occ has also been first guy out most mornings, and the best center of gravity in surfing has been pinballing between the flats and the lip like it's 1999 all over again. Back-to-back waves from Occ and Tom this morning at clean, four foot Supers were enough to suggest their heat shouldn't disappoint.

Both Rabbit and Shaun Tomson have both been out in the lineup over the past couple of days, no doubt staking their claims for a slot on the Curren-Occy undercard and a sly half hour of Supertubes all to themselves. As great as the hype has been, the Tom and Occy clash of the legends/icons/masters/enigmas heat will, at some stage however, be rudely interrupted by a world tour event featuring several members of future seniors tour.