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.”
Jamie O, pro pool.
Pipe Master Jamie O’Brien’s shock confession: “I could just retire and surf a wavepool for the rest of my life!”
I still see wavepools like a boy examining a naked woman for the first time, looking over the subject each inch by inch, legs apart, stomach pushed forward, a frankness in my stare as I dreamily lick a Turkish delight.
Don’t care if it’s Wavegarden, Slater, American Wave Machines or Surf Loch. I do love them all.
Jamie O’Brien is similarly enriched by the experience.
The almost-forty year old who won the Pipe Masters in 2003 (“It’s a long time ago. Fuck it pisses me off,” Jamie says) appears in a wave pool documentary made by Red Bull that also features three-time world champion Mick Fanning, who presents the counter argument.
Mick, who has diplomatic immunity now that he’s retired from pro surfing, says the tour event at Slater’s pool event was “boring” and that after a day in the tank he’s “done.”
Rare is filmic evidence of Waimea Bay’s outrageous entry.
Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing describes it thus. “This near-vertical plunge from crest to trough is in fact one of the sport’s greatest challenges, testing the surfer’s equipment, wave judgment, fitness, and nerve. The drop will often ‘jack’ (steepen and expand) without warning as the wave curls over, a phenomenon that can actually reverse the surfer’s forward motion and send him back up toward the crest—and then to an annihilating wipeout.”
In this video by Rory Pringle, and featuring Mason Ho, Ivan Florence, Coz Colapinto and co, you get a read on what it’s like to pilot a ten-foot womb-duster over the ledge on a twenty-to-twenty-five-foot day, waves in any other year that would’ve been gobbled up by competitors in the Eddie.