Doug Warbrick, Tom Curren, Tom Carroll, Wendy Botha, Pam Burridge
Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach, Australia
The Future’s So Bright …
No one’s sure how much dough Kate Bosworth pocketed to slip into a bikini and play a fictional surfer girl in last year’s Hollywood hit Blue Crush, but it was surely more than 99 percent of pro surfers’ yearly income. Sure, over the last few years the top surfers have been putting away some respectable paychecks for any sport. Guys like Slater, Occy, Taj Burrow, and Andy Irons have all found themselves in the enviable position of putting pen to multimillion-dollar contracts. But the big-money breakthrough wasn’t just another by-product of the new-school era, it was ushered in by none other than the legendary Tom Curren.
After pulling in three world titles and becoming the uber-hero of surfers worldwide in the mid 80s to early 90s, Tom found himself taking a pen from Rip Curl’s Doug “Claw” Warbrick to sign the then-richest sponsorship contract in surfing history: a two-million Australian dollar (about 1.4-million U.S. dollars) deal to be paid out over multiple years.
Photographer Peter “Joli” Wilson (who snapped this photo as Tom became a millionaire), always took extensive notes on his photos and recalls that not everyone was overjoyed about Curren’s new premium wage. Furious, tour mate and fellow Rip Curl-sponsored surfer Damien Hardman boycotted the press conference. Hardman was world champ at the time, but his sponsorship dollars were peanuts compared to Curren’s. According to Joli’s notes, Damien was not happy about it.
The Australian media got wind of the story and a big fuss ensued. Eventually, Rip Curl bowed to media pressure and gave Hardman more sponsorship dollars to quiet the situation. But in true Curren form, Tom missed all the controversy–he was off exploring the globe on The Search. But on that day at Bells (without ever removing his shades), Tom handled the contract signing and the new era of surf money with trademark style.–Scooter Leonard