Since its inception a decade ago, Joel Tudor’s traveling longboard road show, the Van’s Duct Tape Invitational, has been about a lot more than logging action taking place in the water. Tudor’s always been good about bringing unique individuals–artists, musicians, surfboard shapers–to broaden the scope of the invitational event. And since expanding to the multi-day Duct Tape Festival including board shaping demos, panel discussions, musical performances, art exhibits and more, the event only serves to strengthen the argument that surfing is more than just riding waves.
When Tudor’s DTF road show hits St. Augustine in mid-September, the multifarious board riding legend is again bringing along an eccentric and individualistic crop of surfers, from “Weird Waves” creator Dylan Graves to French surfer-musician-filmmaker Lee-Ann Curren.
While Lee-Ann’s surname is synonymous with surfing royalty, the 20-something prodigal daughter made her own mark on competitive surfing when, in 2010, she became the youngest European to ever qualify for the professional tour. A distinctive talent with an individualistic streak, Curren has made films, helped start a non-profit, written stories for a variety of publications, and made music for a wide range of projects, from film soundtracks to her own bands and solo ventures. All of which, when combined with her talent on a surfboard, makes Curren a Duct Tape poster child.
We recently caught up with Curren and asked her about how surfing fuels her various endeavors.
You’ve done more than one of these Duct Tape Festivals now. At the DTF in Zarautz, you shaped boards, played music, and got to surf with everyone. It seems like a really cool event for everyone involved. What makes the DTF unique in your mind?
What makes it unique is that hanging around the event just feels like having a beautiful day at the beach with your friends, but you get to see some amazing surfing, listen to live music, ride all kinds of boards. It brings all of the things I like most in the surf culture to the same place.
For many, it seems like surfing is so much more than the actual act of riding waves. Between music, making movies and your philanthropy, you kind of exemplify that in my mind. In what ways does surfing influence the things that you do outside of the water? Do you draw inspiration from surfing in your music, for example?
Surfing is a creative activity and it kind of makes sense that it goes with a lot of other things like filmmaking and music, board shaping, art, etc. I don’t necessarily look for musical inspiration directly in surfing, but I grew up surfing and with surf culture so it’s a big part of who I am and what I end up making. Also making soundtracks for surf films for friends was how I started making my own music so there was definitely an influence.
You come from impressive surfing stock. Your mother was a champion surfer. Your father, of course, is one of the most influential surfers of all time. You’ve had lots of success, but have your own distinctive approach to surfing. How and when did you first fall in love with surfing? Was it something that you started doing at such an early age that you don’t remember getting the bug?
I remember getting the bug very early on, especially when I was still too young to surf. I remember seeing my parents and their friends go out and being so envious of them. I think that was the moment I kind of fell in love with surfing. Then growing up I kind of had different phases, but became addicted again when I was 14 and found a group of really good friends who were going surfing everyday.
You’ve had a lot of competitive success. You were the youngest ever European to qualify for the pro tour. You did some QS events last year. Do you enjoy surfing competitively at this stage of your career? Are you planning on doing any contests next season?
I really enjoyed surfing in contests except when I was losing heats which was 95 percent of the time [laughs]. I did really enjoy it and still do. It’s a good challenge to go out and work out how to get two good scores. And it definitely helped me progress in surfing. If I want to get any results though, I have to be very driven by competing and only that. My personality goes more in a lot of directions. I like to put time into making things and getting creative. So now free surfing really suits that lifestyle. I’m really lucky to be able to do that and combine it with music.
What’s going on with you, musically, right now? Are you working on new material? Touring? Are you going to perform during the DTF?
I don’t know if I will perform in Florida, but it would be fun [after this interview went to press, Curren was booked at Prohibition Kitchen and will perform there on 9/21]! I am working on my first EP and hopefully an album for next year. Almost finished recording the EP and it should come out in a couple of months. I’m also doing soundtrack work, one of them for a Vans video coming out this winter.