Tom Curren's kids have the flu. They're in the back, sandwiched between their parents, smiling, but obviously feeling terrible. While they're sniffing and coughing, I'm looking nervously in the rearview mirror wondering if I'm breaking some sort of unspoken code by having surfing's royal bloodline crammed in the back of my hatchback rental car.
Still, there they are, and the situation is somewhat surreal.
I put it down to the fact that I'm jetlagged and tired, and they're breathing germs all over the place. Perfect, my first day in J-Bay and I'm in a rolling germ capsule just waiting to catch flu from the Currens.
I guess the real question is this: How does Tom Curren not have his own rental car? Why must he and his family bum a lift off a half-asleep luggage-less import fresh off a plane from California? After all, his heat with Occy, the Clash of the Icons, seems to be all anyone is talking about down here in J-Bay. Despite this, nobody on the team that coaxed him out here has bothered to get him his own mode of transport. Instead they've put him up in a modest rental mere feet away from the main stage of the J-Bay music festival, trapped in the vortex of World Tour mayhem. It's obvious from the midmorning sound checks that despite their suffering, the Curren kids won't be getting too much sleep this weekend. I absently wonder if the organizers are in Occy's corner. Regardless, the family remains incredibly upbeat.
"We haven't got surf and we've been dealing with sick kids," says Tom from the back seat. "Apart from that, we've had an amazing trip."
And now that I'm sitting in a car looking for surf with Tom Curren and his family on a Friday morning, so am I.
Still, I'm tired, and my overly prudent approach to the road is a telltale sign of my exhaustion. It is then that Tom offers me his advice for dealing with jet lag:
"1. Take melatonin."
"2. Hydrate--drink plenty of water."
"3. Partake in some light exercise."
"Or," he says, "you could drink 20 beers. You'll sleep fine after that."
That last part was a joke. I can tell because I see his lips purse slightly in the mirror--suppressing a smile.
"Last night I dreamt I was talking to a cow," offers Tom's youngest son, Pat, through a stuffy nose. The family agrees that that is a weird dream to have.
"Did you ask him to moooove?" Tom asks, again, with the suppressed smile.
The image in my rearview mirror is simply one of a family enjoying a vacation to Jeffreys Bay--completely oblivious to the Clash of the Icons grudge match that is garnering so much media attention. In the other corner, Occy is surfing every day before dawn and is psyched.
But the Currens are just a family, squashed in the back of a compact car, looking for waves that aren't around.
Tom suggests a pie shop for lunch, so we head back into town to the bakery--the lunch of champions. It's at the pie shop that I learn that Tom is a huge fan of the soft drink Tab, and he eagerly grabs a can from the fridge. His position on the subject of Tab softens slightly when he finds out that there is aspertame in it. Still, the meat pies are good even if the waves in J-Bay aren't. Then, after a quiet few moments of contemplation Tom declares: "We came. We saw. We ate pies."
Indeed we did. And they were good.
Tomorrow, flat-surf-permitting, we will do it again.