Nearly three decades after his first tour on the North Shore, Tom Curren reflects on the changes he’s seen in Hawaii, his recent spat with Sunny Garcia, and why he’s as competitive as ever once he puts on a jersey.
Do you remember your first real winter on the North Shore?
Yeah, it was in 1981 and I came out here with the NSSA team and stayed with PT. We surfed Sunset a lot, and it was a pretty daunting experience coming from California.
So 29 years later, what’s changed about the North Shore?
I guess it’s changed a lot and it sort of hasn’t. It was crowded back then and it’s crowded now. But the community out here feels a lot bigger now. When I first started coming out here to the North Shore it was pretty much all surfers. Now, you have people living out here who may not be all that interested in surfing. But I guess the biggest thing that’s changed, as far as I can see, is the community. They’re much more involved in keeping up a good environment and making it safe for kids and looking out for each other. It’s also a lot more trendy out here now than it was in 1981.
You’ve got your daughter, LeeAnn, turning into a pretty serious competitor. Are you pretty involved in coaching her at all, or do you just let her do her own thing?
I’m not really too intense at all. Most of the coaching and stuff I’m gonna tell her comes way before the heat. I don’t want to give her too much advice right before a heat. Maybe just one or two things to look out for and stuff like that.
Do you get nervous watching her surf?
Yeah, I get a little nervous, but I know she has a lot of passion for what she’s doing and she really loves what she does. It’s a good thing watching her surf, but yeah, I do get a little nervous.
And how about when LeeAnn watches you in a heat?
I don’t really know…I think she enjoys it. She grew up in France and now we’re starting to spend more time together. But all in all, I guess it’s just fun to surf as a family together. That’s probably the best thing about surfing by far.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Clash of the Legends event. What’s your take on the whole thing?
I think it’s been great fun. We’ve had some really fun surf and overall it’s been really cool.
Are you and Sunny cool after the drama in the first match up?
Yeah, totally. We’re cool. We’re good friends. He’s very passionate and very intense and that’s part of who Sunny is, but yeah, we’re cool.
When you put on a jersey now, do you kind of snap back into contest mode again?
A little bit. I don’t really get too nervous before a heat now, but once you get out there in a heat again, it’s hard to turn it off. There’s only one speed.
How often are you surfing now?
I still get in the water every day—I think a couple hours every day. If I don’t surf, I’ll just go for a swim. But I’m still getting out there a lot.
Do you feel comfortable surfing at the level you’re currently at or are you still trying to improve?
I’m always trying to improve. The boards have improved so much over the years…there’s still a lot more I can do. So yeah, I’m always trying to improve.
Is there a young surfer out that really impresses you?
That’s a hard one…there’s a lot of really good ones out there, but all in all, I’d say that Brett Simpson has been really impressing me a lot lately.