Tom Curren

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Tom Curren
Tom curren.png
Personal information
Born 3-7-1964 (age 56)
Birth place Santa Barbara, California
Surfing specifications
Major achievements World champion three times - 1985, 1986, 1990, and won 33 championship events in his professional career

Tom Curren (born July 3, 1964, in Santa Barbara, California) is an American surfer. He was born to father Pat (big-wave legend and shaper) and mother Jeanine. His brother Joe is also a professional surfer and popular photographer and he also has a sister named Anna.

Curren grew up raised primarily by his mother, and spent much of his free time in the ocean. Taught to surf by his father, who was a big wave rider, Curren drew on his lineage and had a natural affinity for the ocean and the long surf break of Rincon Point, near his home in Santa Barbara. He progressed quickly and drew the attention of the surf media.

Curren also was a natural competitor and contrary to his introverted personality, reveled in heated competitions in the NSSA, which at the time was California's premier amateur surfing body. Slowly, he was seeded into professional events and he handily beat all comers. By the time Curren hit the ASP World Tour in 1983, he was taking out veteran pros such as Rabbit Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, and Cheyne Horan. He really hit his stride in 1985, and took down his first world title.

He was world champion three times - 1985, 1986, 1990, and won 33 championship events in his professional career, the latter being a total only bettered by Kelly Slater. He achieved near-mythical status both for his competitive drive and for his smooth, powerful surfing style. He made a high-profile decision to retire from competitive surfing in the mid-1990s. He led the surfing revolution in the early '80s and inspired many of the surfers today, showing them how to surf a wave. Curren is a fascinating study in contradictions; he has a surfing style that at combines smooth, rhythmic, seamlesslesly linked maneuvers with blinding speed,raw power, and unique check turns and body English. He seems to relish victory and the spoils that come with it, and yet he is unassuming, publicity shy, and extremely private. It is these compelling characteristics that endear him to global surfing community.

Curren still surfs in contests on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS.) He is also often invited to surf in World Championship Tour (WCT) trials or contests as a wildcard. He has competed in the Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Contest[1] for 3 years in a row, surfing on the Switchfoot team.

In his five year rise to World Surfing Champion, Curren led the way in cutting edge, perfectly tuned performance. Despite his youth, Curren was acknowledged as one of surfing's true geniuses and a soulful original. He single handedly challenged the surfing community in almost every area of surfing's culture and altered the mindset of hundreds of thousands of surfers around the world. Riding under a contract with surfboard company Channel Islands, Tom Curren developed a memorable surfing career co-producing and riding many pro surfboard models such as the Black Beauty and the Red Beauty. [2]

Early in his professional career he signed with 80's clothing giant OP swimwear then later changed sponsorships deals to Rip Curl Wetsuits and Clothing and is still working with Rip Curl to this day.

The Fish Revolution

After his 'time + out', Tom Curren re-appeared at an ASP Surfing Competition in France in 1993, armed with a 1970's 5'5" Twin Fin he'd reportedly bought second hand in a New Jersey Surf Shop (Surfers Supplies in Ocean City, NJ). He entered and proceeded to convincingly beat Matt Hoy, who was ranked 8th in the world at the time. Curren's improvised fusion of speed and turns, kick started a new age of retro as all surfers looked to add a similar board to their quivers. Tom showed the world how to use the fish board and how to use it with a modern style of surfing. Curren has collaborated on retro fish and egg designs with surfcraft design engineer and fellow Santa Barbaran George Greenough.

Curren as a Musician

Curren has played a variety of instruments since fifteen. His drumming, bass, guitar, singing and composition took a form that reflected his unique personality. Famously reclusive, his musical gift was only recognised - although highly regarded - among a small enclave of musical celebrities. Tony Levin, former bassist for the band King Crimson, says that he's never seen an individual master the chapman stick like Curren, in or out of the water.

Curren broke track in late 1993 by committing to a 27-stop national American tour, in which his band 'Skipping Urchins' drove to every hardcore surfing outpost.

His musical depth grew through the mid '90's as he collaborated and jammed with premier talent. Curren also relocated from France back to Southern California. It was during a visit to Sydney in '98 that he exposed himself as a prodigious musician. One evening, unannounced, he walked in off the street to EMI Studios. Curren laid down six live tracks with just guitar and voice.

The music of Curren features raw and honest performances. The folk influence, bluesy, gritty feel with a minimalist approach may have been seen as contradictory to what some believe as the 'surfing music market.' However, the recording success of his long-time friend Jack Johnson, is testament to the fact that the 'surfing music market' is a past tense definition, and that the market is receptive to a wide variety of styles.

Curren's music goes beyond the immediate 'surf market'. He explores musical styles and combinations of sounds that reflect his unique take on music, and a glimpse into the Curren persona.

Composing and recording is now routine, as is rehearsing his band for performances at major surfing events (whether he's competing or not), as well as mainstream venues.

The expansion of Curren's horizons into music seems a natural path to him. In many ways, the culture and lifestyle of surfing and music, are one and the same.

"Curren's reputation as one of the world's greatest surfers in history is supported by his accomplishments as a competitor. But most surfers would define Curren as an artist, then as a world champion..." from Matt Warshaw 'Surf Riders'.


See also