Curren’s first wave at JBay, and his 10-pointer Heritage Heat ride about 20 years later.
Tom Curren and JBay have always been synonymous with one another and always a pleasure to watch, ever since his much-lauded and publicized first wave at Supers in the early '90s.
The marriage of Curren and Supers was overseen by Derek Hynd, the leading man behind the Rip Curl team for so many years, who always said that Curren and JBay would be the perfect moment. This moment was captured by the late Sonny Miller.
This was a wave that just revealed to the world the beauty of Curren's surfing on one of the best right-handers in the planet. It also demonstrated how much the two complemented each other. Curren swoops and glides and his nuanced and subtle weight shifts and direction changes are only evident on the third or fourth viewing of the clip. Don’t be afraid to watch it back a couple of times to get the full appreciation of the ride.
Since that day, Curren has had an affinity with Supertubes and her long lines, and he was forever one of the most pleasing surfers to watch out there. He was always calm and friendly in the lineup, even when it got a bit congested and aggressive as Supers is wont to do around contest time. His smoothness suited the composure of a perfect Supers bomb, and his clean turns showed the world the best way to surf South Africa's premier right-hand point.
There were many more surfers who tried to emulate his style, and while some came close, no one ever did it quite like Curran. Taylor Knox displayed some incredible tube-riding skills the year that the sand built up around Impossibles, and Jordy showed the world how to win out there with incredible new-school surfing wizardry. Still, no one repeated the carves, and the delayed bottom turns, the howling offshore rail lines and the perfect DNA symbiosis of the barrel like Curren – except for maybe Sean Holmes. Known as 'The Nemesis,' Holmes was the South African wildcard who took out the late Andy Irons along with Kelly Slater in a few clutch-moment heats when Irons was in his ascendancy.
In 2014 Curren was invited back to JBay to surf in the popular Heritage series against Mark Occhilupo, who first won the contest in 1984 as a rookie. The Heritage Series was one of the sideshows during a few of the Championship Tour events, and was a successful act, with spectators getting to see their heroes from yesteryear and watch their performances in the setting of modern-day competition. They all stood up to the test.
In epic six-foot waves, the two surfers met at the competitor's area at the contest site to pick up their vests. Occy was bubbling and bouncy (some weight had come back), always ready for a yak with commentators and with media. Curren was quiet and unassuming, as per usual. Some call it seriousness, others call it overt shyness, but it was typical Currenesque behaviour. Don’t be fooled by the quiet demeanor, you can’t win three world titles without a competitive animal raging within. Make no mistake, Curren loves to win and hates to lose – particularly to Occy.
Occy opened up with some fumbling takeoffs on a board with plenty of length and even more volume. Still, once he got going, he was absolutely ripping, throwing buckets and showing flashes of his time as the best backhand surfer out there at Supers and anywhere else in fact.
Then Curren picked up a bomb. His board looked small, his stance a little wider, accentuated by his booties. He read it well and performed a few of his classic carves and cutbacks before pulling into the Carpark Section just like he has done so many times in the past.
It was a great wave. A strong offshore wind gave it a bit of chatter, and when Curren saw the barrel section, he accelerated, compressed and threaded a few sections before exiting cleanly.
The beach cheered, the commentators exclaimed, and then, in totally uncharacteristic style, Curren gave a little claim, before almost slapping the water in exhilaration. It was Curren in his most classic form. It was generous to give it 10-points but it was classic entertainment.
After the heat, Curren was standing around the competitors’ area, and when asked about claiming his 10-pointer, Curren deadpanned, "I must have got a bit carried away there."