Chopes: Out Come the Freaks

The monster rears its head for the first time

I sliced and diced the Teahupoo bits from 1997's Quiksilver Country to make the edit you see here. Also sliced and diced "Devil's Haircut," by Beck, who built that monster truck of a song by slicing and dicing Van Morrison's "I Can Only Give You Everything." Steal from the best and your job is three-quarters finished. Been saying it for years.

Teahupoo wasn't totally unknown when this was shot, but it was still under the radar. It didn't have a name yet. Or rather, it had a few names: Kumbaya, End of the Road, Waterworld, couple others. As is always the case with genuinely death-defying surf breaks, bodyboarders were on it early and hard—Mike Stewart was singing harmony with the Teahupoo foamball before any of the ASP pros laid eyes on the place.

The Quiksilver crew arrived in July, 1996. Tom Carroll, 34, was three years off the Tour, and at the height of his power as a slayer of beasty reef waves. Muscles like graphite-covered cannonballs. Frothed out or zenned out, back and forth, as required. Tom channeled all that talent and experience and joy into calligraphic lines in and around Teahupoo's sapphire-blue tubes. Strong and flawless. Ironman in flower-print jams. Simone Biles with freckles—Biles is maybe a little taller.

Kelly Slater at 24, bushy-haired and wrinkle-free, was of course extraterrestrial—and maybe 65% as good as he is at age 44. Figure that out.

Making this edit, though, Timmy Curran is the surfer who held my attention. Super talented but, in these waves, not superhuman. Curran is the easiest of the three to identify with. He's nervous out there. Makes a few mistakes. Falls off where Tom or Kelly would have powered through. But Timmy rises to the occasion, too. Finds his line in the tube and hits that louche drugstore cowboy stand-up pose, trunks clinging to his perfect hipbones, arms out like sexy Jesus on the cross.

Curran was, probably still is, humble to a fault. I don't mean that as a compliment. He was needlessly humble. Too damn humble. Nick Carroll interviewed Curran right after the Teahupoo trip, and asked what it was like surfing with Tom and Kelly.

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Curran: It felt like I wasn't even there, almost. No matter how good those guys look on video, they're twice as good in person. You can't even explain how good they are.

Carroll: Did you feel intimidated?

Curran: Definitely intimidated. But I tried to have fun and not get all serious about it, and prove myself or anything.

Carroll: It looked like—if you don't mind me saying this, it might not be a correct gauge of performances—but it looks like Tom was just kinda cruising, looking for the tube, while Kelly was sorta playing with the waves, and you were sorta like . . . sorta the little boy on the trip, you know what I mean?

Curran: I was. I was the grom.

You want to reach 20 years back in time and give Tim a slap and a hug and maybe another slap. "Buck up, son! You are a gorgeous surfer, an outrageously good surfer!" Curran was barely 17 when Quiksilver Country was filmed. There were maybe five guys in the world who would've surfed Teahupoo better than he did, and he happened to be stuck with the two best. What you call a good luck / bad luck deal. On the off chance that Tim sees this edit, I hope he feels nothing but proud.