A rambling conversation with Vaughan Blakey about Tom Curren

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

This morning, the enigmatically titled 'Free Scrubber' was premiered on YouTube, as is the fashion for the modern surf film.

Filmed over three months in mid-2020 the film defies easy categorisation, though we can all agree it has very good surfing in it - vintage Curren in fact.

What follows is a back and forth with writer/producer Vaughan Blakey, who gets awfully excited and calls me "man" a lot, offers constructive board advice, and pitches Tom's surfing as a reawakening to "surfing however you want to surf".

Stu: Vaughan, last time I saw you was at Crescent Head early last year and you had some startling things to say about a virus called COVID-19. 
Vaughan: That's right, mate!

I thought you were off your head but it turns out you were bang on the mark. 2020 was a weird one. By the end of it, I'd almost given up surfing; I had trouble with crowds, boards...just lost the love for it.
Me too, mate. I'd just fallen out of love with it. I went on a trip with Mick and Morgs ['Postcards from Morgs'], and all those guys, and I just felt like I surfed shit. I didn't come good from it after that.

I realised that I've got to get back onto boards that I really enjoy surfing, because I was just riding weird boards for most of the year. I think I was trying to tell myself I was ripping, yet I've only just realised just now after making the Curren movie that ripping is fucking garbage.

Eh? I don't follow...how do you have fun if you're not ripping?
Well, the ripping thing...I guess I was thinking of ripping in terms of how I view ripping on the web: one big move, blast the tail or whatever, not putting together a ride from start to finish and feeling good about it.

I was just going, "Why am I so amped to try and surf like Fanning and all those dudes?"

Not sure where this is heading, but I also found myself checking out mid-lengths recently. I've never done that before.
Can I offer you a solution, mate? Long twinnies. A long twinny is the go.

Maybe. I've only ever known short twinnies, and I don't really like them, so I've held out against long twinnies.
When I say long, I'm thinking about 6'4"-ish. The range where you wouldn't consider riding a twinny. They're the perfect boards. I don't know...they just work. I had a go on one of Luke Dorrington's ones, which was sick. I also ride a lot of Joel Fitzgerald's boards. He makes incredible ones. He's amazing at them.

Try the long twinny, mate.

Call me convinced.
In the film, Curren exclusively rides twinnies, and it's just an advertisement for pure glide, man.

The whole Curren thing...he reminds you of what real ripping is because he just fully just looks so good doing nothing.

Where does Tom Curren sit in the pantheon of surf greats?
He's in there with the Duke. He's as important as any surfer that's ever ridden because without Curren there's no Slater, and then with no Slater there's no Andy, but then you've also got the style factor, where it's just so mesmerising, man.

I don't know whether it's stance, or poise, or whatever it is, but he just gets up and he looks perfect on a surfboard. 

Which is fascinating hey? There's, what, two million surfers in the world, all pretty much standing the same way on a board, you wouldn't think it possible that one surfer's style could be so recognisable. 
Yeah. It's amazing. I'm always baffled by that. I've always loved that about surfing, where you can be sitting on a pointbreak, or you can be sitting on the beach of some famous wave, and you can identify almost every surfer. You can almost pick them them all.

Really good surfers do it better than anyone.

Have recognisable styles you mean..?
Yeah, and I guess that's why purists get so edgy about coaching. When there's high performance centres teaching kids how to hold your body and move yourself. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much they teach, their personality will come through it.

That said, I think one of the crazy things about Tom is that you have no understanding of his personality based purely on how he surfs.

I can barely get a read on him at all...
I reckon Tom is so perfect on a surfboard that you feel it must reflect who he is, yet he's one of surfing's most eccentric, misunderstood personalities.

Have we ever understood him? He's a three-time world champ, that doesn't happen without media wanting to tell his story. Does anyone really understand what he's like?
Oh, man, the only people who would have a real idea would be Sonny Miller and maybe Frankie [Jon Frank] or some of those guys who did real long stints with him on boat trips. Derek Hynd, maybe.

In a way you can understand his reluctance. Just the weight of expectation he felt since he was a grom, the California Kid, his Dad being who he was.

It was a mighty weight to bear. Some people wanted him to be the modern day Dora, others wanted him to be a competitive machine.
Yep, he was so important to California's identity, and he ticked all the boxes: He's the big wave guy, the performer, he's a mystery man, and he's a fucking world champion.

He's everything to everyone, and that's hard to do in America.

And all he wanted to do was just surf.
Yep.

Do you think he's harmed his reputation by riding those skimboard things in his dotage?
Nah, definitely not.

I've heard it asked: "What is this man doing? Why is he riding these boards?"
Oh man, my least favourite question in all of surfing is, "Why is that person doing that?" When it comes to actual surfing, has this guy not done every single thing that you could possibly do on a surfboard?!

What's left for him? What's left to do?

How does his surfing in the film stack up? [Note: I'd not seen it at the time]
His speed and glide and positioning is perfect. He does a couple of turns in there that look like 15-year old Curren turns.

While making it I thought about all my mates who are from Curren's era, you know like Bainy and Occy and others who surfed against him, and anyone who grew up surfing at that time, how stoked they're going to be on this movie.

I just feel like it's a reawakening to surfing how you want to surf, and it looks like the funnest thing in the whole wide world. You don't have to do anything beyond what you're physically capable of doing, and it's epic.

I think anyone who's heading towards sixty and is going, "It's just not the same for me anymore," I would be so amazed if you didn't watch the movie and just want to surf instantly.

In saying that, he doesn't look even slightly inhibited by age, or stiffness, or soreness, or RSI. He's just as free as a bird, man.

When Dale Egan and Derek Hynd started riding finless, it unexpectedly took off - got really popular. Do you think we'll soon see people riding short, thin, skimboard-style twins?
It's a really good question, but I'll answer it with a question: What's the agenda?

To me, it just looks like he's having fun trying out some funky shit. I don't think he's trying to reintroduce anyone to anything.

Yeah. I don't expect Tom's trying to start any revolution, but nor do I think Derek was either, yet it did happen.
Derek did get shirty about people not doing it properly, or taking the piss out of it, or commercialising it.

Yep.
Tom, I doubt he'd even have an opinion about what other people think about what he's doing. He's so much in his own space. He's so much absorbed in his own experience, it's the ultimate example of how we should all surf. Like not giving one flying fig about what anyone else thinks.

OK, first things last: 'Free Scrubber' is filmed overseas during COVID so obviously you weren't there. So how'd you get the gig?
So, how it happened was a bit similar to 'Red Monkey, Full Moon'. I got a phone call saying, "Hey, this trip's happened. We got footage. Can you do something with it?" It was exactly that same convo.

Were you given a brief, an idea for a story, or were you just handed the drives and an open slate?
Ridgway [Neil Ridgway] sent us the footage, and I instantly wrote down what I wanted it to be. It was really obvious to me. There were, I don't know, hours of lifestyle footage and hours of surfing, but the best thing and the most enlightening thing is that it just was real. It was so real, man.

I've never seen Tom that animated or unguarded.

There's no hiding Curren here. You get the real guy, and there's no mythologising him. There's no building a god-like aura around him. It's just unfiltered Curren.

When I saw all that footage I was like, OK, we either bend this into a place that is so obscure and so fucking out there that it's really fun to watch, or we just don't do anything. So, obviously, we took the first option, and I can't wait for you to see it, Stu,

And full props to Andy Potts, man. This movie is all his; he had the ability to get these moments. The surfing is shot entirely on drone. The whole movie's a drone movie, and he's a fucking weapon on it.

Watch 'Free Scrubber' now

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 1:50pm

sick.

but Stu, do you reckon finless surfing really got popular?

I see a little stronghold at the Pass and not much elsewhere.
It didn't for eg, take off like people riding fishes after Litmus.
It's remained a tiny little niche.

Or do you see it differently where you are?

and I think the beauty of this movie surfing wise was seeing Curren back riding moreorless regular surfboards.

not the skimboards.

anyhow, awesome job Vaughan.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 1:59pm

It definitely got popular, maybe didn't stay that way the way fishes did, but there was a while there around 2010 when Wegener got Shaper of the Year and Musica Surfica came out that finless was no longer seen as weird or fringe.

I asked that question RE skimboards, before seeing the film.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 2:11pm

Thanks, Stu - and Vaughan and Andy Potts and Curren. I feel very good about surfing right now..

fuhrious's picture
fuhrious's picture
fuhrious commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 2:11pm

Just watched it and it’s really really put a smile on my face! Congrats to Vaughan and yep I want to go surfing right now. You need a long twin Stu? Might know a bloke that could lend you something!

Notgettingold

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 2:26pm

But will I surf like Tom Curren?

fuhrious's picture
fuhrious's picture
fuhrious commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:22pm

How about I film ya and we put it up on Swellnet and we ask the punters. Alternatively let’s go to Mex and surf that right!

Notgettingold

lucky-al's picture
lucky-al's picture
lucky-al commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 9:12pm

you might in a pair of those blue boardies tom's wearing in the pictures stu!

trent71's picture
trent71's picture
trent71 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:42pm

Wise words fuhrious.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 2:31pm

Long twins, now thats a fcuking phenomenon, around here at least.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:18pm

What’s your take on them fr? Look like they go any good?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:31pm

yep. got to say in that last swell here, where it was all over the place, the best surfing I saw was on long twins.
very functional.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:14pm

You talking Torren 7'2 long or more 6'4 long?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:15pm

both

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 6:54pm

They look pretty bloody good under Torren Martin's feet...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 2:42pm

Good vid and love the fact that theres no egos just Tom enjoying surfing for what it is ...fun....

simba

Ash's picture
Ash's picture
Ash commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:48pm

Bought a Black Baron twin last year after eyeballing a mates. Hadn't surfed one since the early 80's and was to say at least "interested". Didn't need to worry the modern twin JS shapes is really fun, fast and forgiving. Occasionally it grabs on my backhand bottom turns, but that's more a case of where I surf and the wave fatness.
Tom is a ray of hope for older blokes who think they're getting past it, it can be done and as Blakey intimates stop trying and just let it go, be yourself. Good advice.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:43pm

Chuck in the side fins of MB split keel quads ;-)

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 3:53pm

it does open up a conversation around "ripping".

Tom, to me, is ripping in this vid.

he's doing big turns, getting toobed, going fast etc etc.

as distinguished from his skimboarding forays.

its Non CT ripping but still high performance surfing for sure.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:12pm

It’s very good surfing and definitely ripping. Need a good wave for it, though.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:01pm

awesome stuff

"has this guy not done every single thing that you could possibly do on a surfboard?!
What's left for him? What's left to do?"

Is there any footage of Tom riding a CI Mid length?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:41pm

Great flick. Cheers to all involved.

Best ,most authentic voices in Oz surf culture : Stu Nettle , Gra Murdoch, Steve Shearer and Vaughn Blakey.

The Mid length thing has been discussed at Swellnet under the guise of the conversation surrounding use of the Desert Storm in non critical conditions.

Derek Hynd set his name in stone by making top ten in the world after losing an eye. Unfathomable effort . The confected finless thing was a false start created by believing the Svengali bullshit after corpo surf hype went so far up its own Ding hole that it went meta and thought it’s propagandists were something beyond ad men.*

Curren is fckn crazy. The best thing about his personality is that it doesn’t obscure his surfing talent. Some personalities elevate sporting ability , some render the physical prowess lessened. Curren’s “ mystique is a blessing in disguise.

The style thing is worthy of further probing.....but not by me . I was lucky enough to share a session with just Curren and his young fella in a most unlikely location. Even from a few hundred metres away and with zero expectations of seeing him I recognised his style almost immediately that he got to his feet on the first wave I witnessed. Incredible talent.

The flick itself was good. Didn’t go too hard on the “ It’s funny cause he surfs good “ idiosyncratic sycophancy. Didn’t over work the premise. The music was fitting and appealing in its diversity. I like how it hinted at the many , many spare hours to be filled in a few months of surfing with minimal distractions.

Epic , reeling Point breaks without cnts aplenty goes a loooooong way towards making a good surf flick.

Again.....thanks to everyone. Cheers to TC for enduring the blasé bits of your fun becoming your work enough to still convey passion whilst you’re shaking that money maker . Stylish and on point mate . That skimboard stuff was real hard to love but I’ve lost interest in work before so I understand.

* Blakey is borderline corpo shill but his disarming enthusiasm and earnest honesty render the accusation petty and unworthy.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:05pm

Good stuff, Blowin.

Totally agree about the Pantheon of Four.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:11pm

" I like how it hinted at the many , many spare hours to be filled in a few months of surfing with minimal distractions."

yeah, that was cool.

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 4:45pm

from MR on wards i have always loved twin fins been riding them since then
old now so ride 6,10 twin and 7,2 twin lots of fun on them

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:36pm
lawncigar's picture
lawncigar's picture
lawncigar commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:13pm

just want to throw Andrew Kidmans name in here ..
he's been on the flow, soul, non-ripping vibe in his films for well over 2 decades ..

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:39pm

Glad you mentioned AK, if it wasn't you it was gonna be me.

I met Tom here in Japan at a small concert he put on up in the country here. Was a great night and as only me and a mate were the only English speakers in the crowd, he gravitated towards us before the show and between sets. After the show we had a few drinks and a bit of chit-chat.

They say you should never meet your heros and I was trying my best not to be a starstruck, babbling idiot but Tom is actually just a really cool cat and a genuinely nice bloke.

(cheesily I brought a Ripcurl T-Shirt to the concert and got him to sign it. I'll try and dig it up)

1173

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:46pm

It’s not lying next to the single “ happy “ sock under your bed is it ?

Comedic digression : Remember when Rodney Rude found out they were paying $10 per deposit down at the sperm bank ?

“ Holy shit “ said Rodney “ That means the towel under my bed is worth two grand .”

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:48pm

Found it scrunched up in a draw next to my happy sock.

Fucking groupies.

1173

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 5:29pm

Hey Blakey, if you're free I've got a gigabyte of GoPro footage from a trip to Bali with the kids a few years ago. Maybe I can send it over and you can do something with it?

Baconeater's picture
Baconeater's picture
Baconeater commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 6:11pm

Besides the surfing.....Joel Turpels wsl commentary of Toms ride was brilliant....prob my favourite moment in the vid...very Mad Wax.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 7:36pm

I agree.

northeasterly's picture
northeasterly's picture
northeasterly commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:50am

Laughed out loud at that point. Was a highlight.

gavin007's picture
gavin007's picture
gavin007 commented Thursday, 28 Jan 2021 at 6:40pm

I hardly got past the opening paragraph and I read "a reawakening to "surfing however you want to surf". That, I like !!

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 7:53am

Tom's surfing has been and always will be a thing of beauty....

Botak

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:27am

Island bay, what did you mean by this comment on the other website?

“ JJF could do with watching this.”

Got me stumped

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 4:53pm

goofyfoot, I meant the flow and focus on the entire ride. I find that John John, as outrageously good as he is, focusses too much on the final layback or hack.

Fair enough in Hawaii, where waves are short and powerful, but e.g at Bells (which he did win), he did the same bloody layback 20 times.

I just think he sells himself short at times. (First World surf complaints, I know)

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 6:52pm

I 100% agree about the bells laybacks on the end section. Maybe he just knew that they were (for him) a fairly low risk manoeuvre that would score well.
But I have to disagree that he doesn’t surf the entire wave. I think he links turns beautifully and seamlessly. That recent Haliewa wave a perfect example.
Respectfully disagree of course ha ha ha.
It would be a pleasure to see him on a trip with Curren on waves like that Mehico point.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 7:45pm

All true, gf

And I’d love to find myself at that Mex point too - just quietly

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 7:56pm

I’ll see ya there!

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 1:04pm

I would of liked to see him on some longer pintails on the bigger days.
Incredible surfer

Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 2:29pm

I know a ledge that rode 'mid length' and longer twinnies in ledgendary waves of consequence stewart. 6'8"s, 7'.0"s, 7'2"s. They were only shaped by a world champ twinnie ledge though. Other... well... other... ledg... well they said twinnies is just 'shit'.

https://www.swellnet.com/forums/wax/297229

My wife will probably cop a hidden boot from afar for saying this, and I might get banned, but we can assume that... and at least you won't be ashamed!

Surfitygirlmore's picture
Surfitygirlmore's picture
Surfitygirlmore commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:44pm

I waited months for searching for Tom Curren ($29.95) to be released on VHS, in a mad rush home i copped a $230 speeding ticket (alot of money back then) policeman asked if there was a reason I was driving so fast.
Couldn't tell him it was the video in the passenger seat that I'd been waiting months for to watch
Still the best $259.95 I've had to part with.
Fu#king love this guys surfing and well done VB, Sonny miller would be proud

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Saturday, 30 Jan 2021 at 2:42pm

haha. Classic!!!
That still stands as my favourite surf video too. Sadly, mines stashed in a mates attic on the other side of this wide brown land just gathering dust.
Interestingly enough, i looked online the other day and the original VHS's of this movie are priced at around $200. You could get your money back!! haha

BigZ's picture
BigZ's picture
BigZ commented Friday, 29 Jan 2021 at 9:53pm

froth meter reaching meltdown, Happy sock overflowing Zen ahhhhhh

BigZ

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Saturday, 30 Jan 2021 at 7:35am

yeah but Zens are football size

simba

barry-banchong's picture
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barry-banchong commented Saturday, 30 Jan 2021 at 10:30am

In 1993 i was first introduced 2 a 6'8 twin fin home made pretty rough as guts by a really quite hippy dude from WA i didn,t really like it but i had only been surfing 4-5 years.so i wasn't quite sure what i was on. days later that same guy had a crack at shipstern bluff on the same board i was completely blown away he didn't make one wave but this fucker had balls down 2 his knee's. WA surfers are the best. a few months back i had a ride on a modern version of one and loved it. every surfer should have one