On Surfing

Lee-Ann Curren

Portrait by Matt Titone

Lee-Ann Curren is a polymathic surfer and musician, but ultimately, like many of the subjects included here, she’s part and parcel of the past yet inextricably bound to the present, staking claim as much to her family’s outsized presence in the culture’s history as to her own.

Can you describe one of the most challenging aspects of surfing to you?

The biggest challenge to me is that it’s a slow progression. There’s a lot to take into account: ocean tides and currents, where to take off, paddling ability, and then technique on the wave itself. Adjustment with boards, fins — it’s a slow learning curve, but it’s a great joy going through it.

At first, the challenge is to be comfortable in the lineup, your home spot, then to be comfortable-ish in every lineup. There are challenging ones like La Graviere, Pipe, and Teahupoo, but the ocean is always the biggest challenge.

What’s one of the most redemptive or rewarding parts of surfing?

You get a really nice feeling after every single ride. You feel good and healthy, and the thought of good waves is the easiest way to get out of bed before sunrise.

Has surfing afforded you anything in life? If so, what?

Surfing professionally has afforded me most of what I have: years of traveling to beautiful places and friendships around the world, the chance to see the world and different perspectives, a place to live, and most of my music instruments, too! And in the non-material things, it’s given me the ability to be patient and trust my instincts.

How long can you go without surfing?

I can go a few weeks to a month, but I become a little bit different if I don’t surf — a little more eggy, and I feel rusty.

How and when did you fall in love with surfing?

When I was little, I saw my parents and their friends leash up and go into the ocean. It seemed to me like they were going on a great adventure each time, and it bummed me out I couldn’t go yet. I started surfing a little later with my cousins and friends at the Côte des Basques beach in Biarritz.

What’s one of your pre/post-surf rituals you hold dear?

Wake up super early and have a fruit and a coffee, and be in the water while my head is still foggy and sleepy. I take my dog, Bowie, to the beach most of the time, and he stays at the towel, so I give him a little cuddle before and after I surf. I guess that’s a ritual. Having brunch after surfing and putting on comfortable clothes, and maybe doing a little stretch, and enjoying being surfed out while doing the remaining activities of the day.

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Michael Adno

Michael is a writer and photographer born in Florida as a first-generation American to Austrian and South African parents. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Bitter Southerner, and The Surfer’s Journal among other magazines.

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