A one-of-a-kind ride with comic filmmakers Vaughan Blakey and Nick Pollet.
Best surf movie of the year? Too early to let the floodgates of ecstatic joy burst free?
Free Scrubber, and the unusual title will be revealed in the final few seconds, is a film built around Tom Curren’s three-month Mexican vacay in 2020, the three-time world champ trapped across the border as COVID hit and the US shut its doors to the world.
Curren, who turns fifty-seven this year, was with Australian filmmaker Andy Potts and surfboard collector Mark “Buggs” Arico, the unlikely trio equipped with a portable electric piano that could be played on the beach, fishing equipment and a flotilla of surfboards.
The beach town in Oaxaca they were staying in was cleared by police of foreign gringos with only Curren, Arico and Potts avoiding the round-up.
The footage, sent to Australia on two unmarked hard drives, was then masterfully assembled by filmmakers Vaughan Blakey and Nick Pollet.
I called Vaughan to lavish his royal cherry with praise; how it’s the first time on film the world is gifted funny Curren and not the dark mysto cat we usually get.
“When I watched the raw footage it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” says Vaughan. “I couldn’t believe it. How the fuck do you get Curren where he’s not being mysterious?”
I tell Vaughan that I love the section where Tom plays piano while ignoring his interlocutor, Buggs Arico.
“Tom isn’t paying attention. He gets so much adoration, everything handed to him, everyone falls at his feet,” says Vaughan. “At what point does he stop connecting with people and live in his own world?”
The surfing, of course, is a joy to watch.
“On a wave he’s ageless. The fact that he’s not looking for big sections to hit is easy on the eye. It’s not all about the hammers. You’re not waiting for him to do something. He’s just riding waves.”