Tom Curren changed surfing. He was and still might be one of the most stylish surfers ever to ride a wave. His silky smooth lines on waves like J-Bay seemed impossible. It was like mind surfing. He was the opposite of surfers like Occy, who surfed with sharp lines and aggression.
But Tom Curren was an outlier. Softly spoken and uncomfortable in the spotlight, he let his surfing do the talking. He defied convention by surfing, for a while, without a sponsor. He faded happily into obscurity, preferring to surf solo in France and dedicate time to creative pursuits.
Curren returned intermittently, to compete in a WQS event or two, or to challenge arch enemy, Occy, in a master’s contest. But he always quickly resumed life in his bubble, making appearances in few surf videos, but shining whenever he did. Watch him in Endless Summer 2, or in Rip Curl search specials (see below).
Tom Curren is one of surfing’s first true superstars. He paved the way for Kelly Slater, who in turn paved the way for JJF. In fact both John John and Kelly mimic Tom’s style. You can see traces of that soulful bottom turn, the perfectly positioned arms and the effortless transitions. But no-one can do it quite the way Tom did. Even into his 50s he still defies logic with a style that the rest of us can only dream of emulating.
Discover facts about Tom below.
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Place of Birth
Santa Barbara, California
Year of Birth
July 3, 1964
143 lbs (65 kg)
5 ft, 10 in (178cm)
1982 Men’s CT
#476 Men’s QS 2012
10.74 Avg. heat score
5.37 Avg. wave score
Men’s Championship Tour
Alder Surf Pro – 1st place 1,400 points Wyland Hawaiian Pro – 1st place 1,000 points
O’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 2,200
Rip Curl Pro Landes – 1st place 1,500
Marui Japan Open – 1st place Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place OP Pro – 1st place
Marui Japan Open – 1st place Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place
Marui Japan Open – 1st place Gotcha Pro – 1st place Lacanau Pro – 1st place Foster’s Surf Master Pro – 1st place Stubbie’s US Pro – 1st place
Foster’s Pro – 1st place Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place Philishave Tracer – 1st place BHP Steel International – 1st place Stubbie’s Surf Classic – 1st place
OP Pro – 1st place Stubbie’s Surf Classic – 1st place Rip Curl/Aust Crawl Classic – 1st place
Hang Ten Series (i) – 1st place OP Pro – 1st place Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place
Marui World Surfing Pro – 1st place
Tom Curren’s love for surfing was influenced by his parents. His father, Pat Curren, was a surfer and mom, Jeanine, ran a bikini shop. Pat Curren shaped surfboards and dove for abalone.
Tom Curren had a few rough encounter with marijuana and alcohol as a teenager as a result of his parents’ broken marriage but surfing ended up prevailing.
Christianity is an important part of his life, largely thanks to the influence of his mother. But Jeanine also inspired his young boy to surf and drove him to many surf contests all along the West Coast of the United States.
Tom began showing off in the amateur division. He won the United States Surfing Championships in 1978 and 1979 and the national and world junior titles in 1980.
Curren signed his first sponsorship deals with Rip Curl and Ocean Pacific and turned pro just before his 18th birthday.In October 1982, the young California surfer beat Tom Carroll in the Marui World Surfing Pro final and claimed his first IPS World Circuit event trophy.
One year later, he ended up taking home three event titles during the inaugural ASP World Tour season. In 1984, he repeated the feat and was ready to take over the world.
In his first golden year, Tom conquered five stages – Foster’s Pro, Marui World Surfing Pro, Philishave Tracer, BHP Steel International, and the Stubbie’s Surf Classic.
By the end of the 1980s, Tom Curren was fed up and bored. As a result, he fell abruptly in the rankings and was virtually out of the world tour.
At 26 years of age, he gave competitive surfing a final try. In 1990, Curren won his third world title and said goodbye to heat life.
In the 1990s, Tommy traveled the world and helped Rip Curl plant a seed that would become a symbol of free surfing. “The Search” is the concept that epitomizes the spirit 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.
Tom Curren has no sponsors as he has retired from surfing.
Tom Curren rode the Al Merrick surfboard quiver, equipped with a thruster fin setup.