San Francisco feels like a Tom Curren kinda town. The kind of town you could cruise down the street on rollerblades, wearing a beanie, speedy sunglasses, playing a homemade cigar box guitar… with nobody raising an eyebrow. The kind of town with a few waves as well.
Those of you with long memories might remember when Rip Curl took their Search tour event to San Francisco back in 2011. There wasn’t much Searching involved – well, they found Ocean Beach – but as a tour event it worked splendidly. While there were a few fine waves (and Kelly Slater’s 11th world title), it was the soundtrack provided by the city itself that made it such an interesting cultural detour. Working on the event, we spent nights in John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room, which felt like a bit of a tourist trap, but hey, we were tourists. There was music everywhere. We saw Mac Miller at the Filmore. Metallica were playing there the following week. The surfing felt like a sideshow.
Which brings us to this edit.
In The Band is a 16-minute cut by Joe Alani, featuring Tom Curren, Connor Coffin and Mason Ho. Our plucky troubadours walk/rollerblade the streets of San Francisco, performing impromptu curbside concerts in between surfing some pretty reasonable waves. It’s fairly clear that Curren and Conner are The Band. Conner plays guitar. Curren plays instruments made, it seems, largely from junk. Both can really play. If there is a storyline here, it’s Mason’s just-realised dream to be in the band. Mason doesn’t play an instrument, but his Mom was a DJ and he surfs like jazz sounds and he eventually becomes the band’s harmonica player. Half of their swampy street jams stayed on the soundtrack.
In The Band is not exactly a Search trip but they find some surfing moments in and around the city. Any moment of Mason on a surfboard is a moment. Curren surfing his skimboard is also a moment…and maybe even the surfing high water mark of the film. His surfing is suitably offbeat but predictably masterful at the same time.
Curren appears freshly repatriated from Mexico, which is where we last encountered him in Rip Curl’s previous edit, Free Scrubber. The rollerblading three-time world champ is deeply tanned and his hair still bleached from the Oaxacan sun. He’s also still seemingly comfortable to have a camera following him around, cinema-verité style, capturing him at his quirkiest on the streets of San Fran. “You can almost assume what you think you know about him,” ponders Mason of Tom, “but don’t even think you know.” Ponder that.