Nathaniel has made it to the big leagues. Photo: Straley
In our mid-year WQS preview, we gave Nathaniel Curran a 40-percent chance at qualifying for the 2009 WCT. That’s nearly a half and half chance, which ain’t bad. But Nathaniel doubled down and shortly after the mag came out he got on a hot streak, winning the U.S. Open which catapulted him to first place on the WQS, and followed it up by winning another six-star WQS, this one in France, which gave him a solid lead going into the final quarter of the season. When we did the interview in early September there hadn’t been an official announcement, but the odds looked remarkably good that Nathaniel had qualified. Afterwards we checked in with Al Hunt [WQS tour manager] and got the word, that yep, it was official: we’ll be seeing Curran on next years’ dream tour. Huge congrats NC! – Casey Koteen
Your qualification for next year’s World Tour might not be official just yet, but with the amount of points you have now it must be pretty much solidified?
Al Hunt talked to me after the super series in France and basically said there were a lot of big contests left still, but that I was safe. At that point Chris Davidson and I were pretty far ahead points-wise.
And you’re pretty far ahead of him.
Well, I was about 2,000 points ahead of him, but after he won the six-star prime I was only 700 points ahead.
You have more points now, with a bit more than three months to go, than Dane Reynolds finished with last year, and he ended up second on the WQS. The point cutoff to qualify typically goes up every year, but the general consensus is that this year it would be lower than 2007, which would certainly mean you’re safe.
We all thought there would be fewer points this year, but a lot of guys on the WCT aren’t doing the WQS, or aren’t really pursuing it. There’s Tiago Pires, Aritz Aranburu, Jihad Khodr, and maybe a few more guys that are. I think that’s why there are so many points up for grabs, because usually the World Tour guys who are in danger of falling off come in and do a bunch of WQSes, and eat up a bunch of points later in the year.
You’ve grown up with Dane Reynolds, and watched him make the WCT last year. Have you talked to Dane at all about making the tour or anything like that?
He called me and was asking me about winning those comps and was stoked for me. But we’re kind of on opposite travel schedules, with the WCT and the WQS so I haven’t seen him much.
I suppose that’s going to change next year?
Yeah, I’m super stoked. It seems like it took forever, I watched everyone make it. Some of those guys are older than me, but I surfed against Bobby Martinez back in the NSSA days. And I’ve been traveling the tour since I was eighteen, so I watched Ben Bourgeois, Roy Powers, Fred Patacchia, and all those guys get on. I was young, traveling with my brothers back then, but I feel like I’ve been around for ages.
So what was the difference this year?
Usually I’ve had good years after my injuries, because they’ve made me really focused. This year, I just wanted to prove everyone wrong. I’ve had some sponsor trouble in the past, getting kicked when I was down, so I wanted to come back and show people they blew it. It all made me so hungry.
I’ve also been surfing a ton, more than I ever have. And also surfing with Dane when he’s home, and that of course helps, and makes me push things. I’ve been doing some training with Sean Hayes as well.
The other thing that’s been a huge help is my brother Josh has been recording my heats from the web casts. When I come home, we’ll go over it and look at how I did and what people who are making heats are doing, and stuff like that. It’s been huge, breaking that stuff down.
Also, I realized there’s some strategy when it comes to picking which comps to go to. People were tripping when I went to Brazil instead of the Maldives, but it worked out and gave me a lot of momentum. And then going into Huntington I really wanted to do well. Winning the U.S. Open has always been a dream, but I never thought I would actually win it. It was surreal, that day.
How much of getting on a roll like this is mental?
That has a lot to do with it, I also had a good board. But I got a decent result in South Africa, which is somewhere I’d never done good at before, and it gave me this confidence. I felt like if I did good there, I could do good in Europe. And I just kept feeding off that.
I also had a few lucky breaks, which I guess is part of getting on a roll. Everything was just snowballing.
And it all happened farther along in the year, which is better than making an early run, I think.
Yeah, well you guys gave me a 40-percent chance earlier in the year, and I love that stuff, it got me fired up. I feel like I’ve always been the under dog, and this year I’ve just been feeling like, “Okay, bring it on.” It makes me want to try harder.
Going from mostly beachbreaks on the WQS, you’re graduating to the dream tour now, have you thought about how you’ll adjust your approach?
I can’t remember who said this, but someone likened it to doing a putt-putt tour, and then you qualify and you’re on the PGA at Augusta trying to hit 500-yard long drives. It’s a big difference.
I’m just really excited, I feel like I haven’t surfed really good waves in a long time. A few of the waves on tour really suit my surfing. And I’m excited to see some of my friends that I haven’t seen in a while.