Tom Curren – Everything there is to know of the Golden child of Surfing

A person walking across a beach next to the ocean

Tom Curren (born October 22, 1966) is an American professional surfer who was born in San Clemente, California. He began surfing before the age of two at the encouragement of his father.

Tom Curren was the Golden Child of American surfing, at once both hero and anti-hero. He was adored by millions of fans, but some element of the underground continued to adore him.

He defined the era with his effortless style and precise lines. His surfing has always had a spark only someone born in the water could possibly capture. For everyone else, it was mind-surfing—the proper way to ride a wave. His career has taken him to the top of the surfing world, yet he stays free of entanglements. He’s a celebrity among surfers, but he remains outside the mainstream.

Professional career

A group of clouds in the sky over a body of water

By the time Curren reached the ASP World Tour in 1983, he was competing against professionals such as Rabbit Bartholomew, Shaun Tomson, and Cheyne Horan.

Tom Curren was the first surfer to win three world titles (1985, 1986, and 1990). He was a professional for over 25 years and won 33 championship events during his career, which was only bettered by Kelly Slater. He became known for both his competitive spirit and surfing technique. In the mid-1990s, he decided to leave the ASP World Tour and compete only in the big wave surfing venue.

He embraced his individuality and decided to give up competing, allowing him to focus fully on his interest – surfing waves in his unique style at his speed. He was able to tour the world with his wife Lisa Andersen, following swells wherever they took them.

In 1990, Curren rode a wave from the take-off zone to Rivermouth on Margaret River, which was a 1200-foot journey. He then had to walk back to Mainbreak from the Rivermouth to rejoin the surf. Those who witnessed it claim that it has never been done before outside of competition.

Still, the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) is where he competes. He has also been invited to surf in World Championship Tour (WCT) trials or events as a wildcard on numerous occasions. For the past three years, he’s competed in the Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Contest.

Curren made his pro debut in the 2005–06 season when he was under a contract with surfboard firm the Channel Islands. He co-designed and rode pro boards such as the Black Beauty and Red Beauty.

He began his surfing career as a student at Newington College, where he was part of the varsity team and won several honors. He subsequently signed with OP swimwear and switched sponsorship agreements to Rip Curl Wetsuits and Clothes.

Following his absence, he returned to the ASP Surfing Competition in France in 1993, with the 1970s 5’5″ Twin Fin that he’d supposedly obtained secondhand from a New Jersey Surf Shop (Surfers Supplies in Ocean City, NJ).

He went on to win the event. After entering, he proceeded to beat Matt Hoy, who was ranked eighth in the world at the time. Curren displayed how to use a fish board and how to do it with a contemporary style of surfing, showing the globe how. With George Greenough, Curren has collaborated on retro fish and egg designs.

Curren is also credited with coining the term “tow-in surfing” – when a surfer uses a personal watercraft, or other means, to tow them into enormous waves that would otherwise be impossible to catch. Tom Curren’s most famous tow-in ride was at Jaws Peahi in Hawaii on December 3, 1998.

Knowing Tom Curren in depth

A man riding a wave in the ocean

As a young man, Pat earned a reputation as a hot-dogging, booze-fueled beach bum who surfed less than he rode huge waves in big barrels. To this day, his careless abandon and Johnny Cash–style classicism inspire equal reverence from impatient youngsters and weary veterans. He’s the exception to the rule when it comes to surfing.

According to the Physio Culture site, Curren has a blood pressure five millimeters lower than that of other humans. He is described as “mysterious,” “unconventional,” or even “reclusive.”

The style in which he surfs is a result of natural, effortless grace. He rides strange-looking craft that is only popular once they have been widely imitated. He lost a long-term sponsorship agreement after competing in a huge event without corporate logos on his board.

He has no interest in what people think of him, as he is not motivated by money or fame. Even the fact that he is recognized in public after having won so many competitions is irrelevant to him. Curren is reportedly not interested in notoriety. He wants to be able to do what he wants when he wants, without people knowing who he is and bothering him about it.

After learning to surf, Curren began playing music not long afterward. He started on drums but switched to the guitar after his early teens, although he stuck to easy chords.

In the early 1980s, Curren brought his guitar with him on distant tour dates. There was plenty of time for him to practice, but he has discovered that playing around the event’s commencement is a “distraction.”

“You’re on tour to be focused and kind of single-minded: Win-win-win,” he said.

He won successive world crowns in 1985 and 1986. However, his cosmology might change according to the place of competition within it. Curren “seemed to lose interest in competing” by the late ’80s, according to surf historian Matt Warshaw. He began studying the guitar further at this time.

And he began listening to more and different music. He fell under the spell of old R&B records, especially the guitar work of Stax Records house musician Steve Cropper, drawn to its “simplicity and accessibility.”

He rededicated himself to the sport with renewed vigor and won the last championship in 1990, then settled into what is now known as a “free surfer,” but with fewer commitment responsibilities.

Without the overabundance of contests — at the time, there were almost twice as many events in professional surfing as there are today – he had more chances to delve into music.

“I had recently bought a house and was spending more time at home. It was very different from the tour life. I got a few music studio things during that time, and kind of learned a little bit about engineering,” he said.

Curren became the face of The Search, wetsuit maker Rip Curl’s ongoing campaign of surfing exploration. A recent “Search” video pairs Curren with much younger pros Conner Coffin and Mason Ho. The trio journey to San Francisco to surf — and to play music. 

“Like, his guitar is tuned all fuckin’ weird,” Coffin said of Curren at one point. “So instantly it just sounds different, but then he can play it with you, so it’s just weird and different and cool.”

Event Wins

  • Men’s Championship Tour
  • 1991Alder Surf Pro – 1st place 1,400 points
  • Wyland Hawaiian Pro – 1st place 1,000 points1990O’Neill/Pepsi Coldwater Classic – 1st place 1,800
  • Bundaberg Rum Masters – 1st place 1,800
  • Rip Curl/Coke Classic – 1st place 1,400
  • Quiksilver Lacanau Pro – 1st place 1,400
  • Arena Surfmasters – 1st place 1,400
  • Boundi Pro – 1st place 1,400
  • Mauri Pro – 1st place 2,2001989Rip Curl Pro Landes – 1st place 1,5001988Marui Japan Open – 1st place
  • Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place
  • OP Pro – 1st place1987Marui Japan Open – 1st place
  • Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place1986Marui Japan Open – 1st place
  • Gotcha Pro – 1st place
  • Lacanau Pro – 1st place
  • Foster’s Surf Master Pro – 1st place
  • Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place1985Foster’s Pro – 1st place
  • Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place
  • Philishave Tracer – 1st place
  • BHP Steel International – 1st place
  • Stubbie’s Surf Classic – 1st place1984OP Pro – 1st place
  • Stubbie’s Surf Classic – 1st place
  • Rip Curl/Aust Crawl Classic – 1st place1983Hang Ten Series (i) – 1st place
  • OP Pro – 1st place
  • Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place1982Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place


  • Pat and Jeanine Curren’s enthusiasm for surfing was inspired by their son. Pat Curren, his father, was a surfer while his mother, Jeanine, ran a bikini boutique. He crafted surfboards and harvested abalone with his dad.
  • As a youngster, Tom Curren had several unpleasant experiences with cannabis and alcohol as the result of his parent’s divorce, but surfing won out in the end.
  • Jeanine was a big influence on her son’s life, particularly because of her involvement. However, his mother also inspired him to surf and drove him to many surfing competitions on the West Coast of the United States.
  • In the amateurs, meanwhile, Tom started to show off. Tom won the United States Surfing Championships in 1978 and 1979, as well as the national and worldwide juvenile crowns in 1980.
  • Curren signed his first sponsorship agreements with Rip Curl and Ocean Pacific before turning pro at the age of 18. In October 1982, the young California surfer defeated Tom Carroll in the Marui World Surfing Pro final to take home his maiden IPS World Circuit prize.
  • He won three competitions during the first ASP World Tour season a year later. He went on to repeat his success in 1984, prepared to take over the world.
  • In his inaugural golden year, Tom won five events – Foster’s Pro, the World Surfing Pro at Marui, the Philishave Tracer, BHP Steel International, and the Stubbie’s Surf Classic.
  • Tom Curren was frustrated and bored by the end of the 1980s. As a result, he plummeted in the standings and was on the verge of being kicked off the circuit.
  • He gave competitive surfing one last try at the age of 26. Curren won his third world title in 1990 and bid farewell to heat life for good.
  • In the 1990s, Tommy traveled the world and helped Rip Curl lay the groundwork for a symbol of free surfing. “The Search” is the embodiment of the thrill of wave riding.
  • In 2000, the American icon finished runner-up at the Quiksilver Masters World Championships.
  • Tom Curren was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in 1995 and into the Surfers Hall of Fame in 2003.

For the uninitiated, Tom Curren rode the Al Merrick surfboard quiver, equipped with a thruster fin setup.

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