It’s been eighteen years since Mark Occhilupo won Bells, and since then some crazy stuff has gone down in surfing, hell, in the world in general, but one thing that’s yet to occur is a fellow goofy-footer climbing up the iconic Bells stairs and ringing that bell.

It’s hard to believe. Guys like Bobby, guys like the Hobgoods, Owen, Medina—they’ve all come here with their talent, their hunger, their inherent mistrust of the regular-footer’s approach, and none of them have walked away with a win. For the past seventeen years the Rip Curl Pro has been dominated by natural-footers, and not just any natural-footers, but world champs. Sunny, Andy, Mick, Joel, Kelly, ADS. Fourteen brass bells between them hasn’t left much room for anyone else. It’s a formidable list, and it goes a long way to explaining why we haven’t seen a goofy champ this millennium, but does it actually mean Bells is a harder wave to surf on your backhand?

Legendary backsider Barton Lynch, who won here in ‘91 and also took out this week’s heritage heat against fellow goofy-foot legend Damien Hardman, doesn’t think so. ‘On the backhand you can come from deep on that white-water and square it up and get up into the lip more vertically and take advantage of the lip while it presents itself,’ he told Ronnie Blakey with trademark froth during the webcast.

Watching the below clip of Occy taking apart the bowl (scroll to 2:30) during his Skins victory in ‘97 and his Rip Curl Pro win in ‘98, it’s hard to argue. The Raging Bull looked electric out there nearly two decades ago with the kind of vicious power surfing that could still win him the event today. Often considered the benchmark for backside surfing at places like Bells and J-Bay, it’s easy to see why the tour’s current crop of goofy-footers are so keen to channel the Occ’s approach when they take to the waves here each Easter. With only four of them left in the contest, it’ll be interesting to see if Matty Wilko, Wiggolly Dantas, Italo Ferreira or Nat Young (who’s gone close before) can put an end to the forehand dominance that’s established itself at the venue, or if with guys like Mick, Jordy and Julian still in the picture, the curse of the right-foot-forward will continue. Whatever happens, it’ll be a long time before surfing like this gets old.

Love live the Occ!