Charged with making something from the footage, Blakey could make another serious Curren film, or he could go down the rabbit hole alongside Curren and make something clock-meltingly brilliant. Just embrace the glorious strangeness of it all. This was Free Scrubber. “When I was watching the footage, it was just so fruity. Everything in there that felt like a David Lynch sidebar. This is like David Lynch, mate. But at the same time, I don’t know, it was also a great buddy comedy like The Blues Brothers or something with Tom and Buggs. It’s like this odd couple thrown into isolation and everything they’re doing is just wacky. It was completely hilarious.”
Blakey got license to get weird from the man himself. “Curren and I only spoke twice on the phone about the film,” says Vaughano. “That was our only contact before we started cutting it. I said to him, ‘Look, man, I’m going pretty out there on this one.’ And he was going, ‘Bend it.’ That was his advice to me, ‘Bend it.’ And I was going, ‘Oh, it’s bent, mate. It’s bent. It’s so bent it can see the back of its own head!” That was the last Blakey heard from Curren. Four text messages, two conversations, no response and no review of the finished edit was the sum total of correspondence. But Blakey ran with it and soon Joe Turpel was commentating Tom’s waves, unexplained faces were appearing for no reason, and Tom Curren was hula-hooping. Free Scrubber fell somewhere between Searching For Tom Curren and Erasherhead.
But like a Lynch film, there was also an unsettling vibe to it. The whole scene in Salina Cruz was already a little unsettling. For starters, the surf town was empty. The pandemic had cleaned all gringos out. There was also some bad juju with the locals, who were a bit on edge about them being there. But the unsettling nature of the edit comes largely from not knowing what the hell is actually going on. “I was watching it,” recalls Vaughano, “just going, imagine walking in on this scene. What is actually happening here? Would you find it funny? Would you be buzzing, or would you be going, ‘Holy shit, this is actually a little disturbing’? You just don’t know what’s actually going on.”
"Holy shit, this is actually a little disturbing? You just don’t know what’s actually going on.”
The edited result was right on the edge. “And that’s what I felt like I was watching the whole time. What the hell is going on here? What’s happening here? And it just had this great sort of balance of being really funny, but really out there at the same time.” Blakey twigged on what he needed to do. A great Curren edit needs to pose more questions about Curren than it answers.
The surfing in the film, however, spoke truth. “The waves he’s surfing are just these beautiful, playful little right points and his surfing... I reckon there’s turns in there that look identical, in zappiness and zippiness and positioning and just light-footed fun to some of the turns he was doing when he was young. He’s just so green-limbed, it’s amazing. You look at Curren and you can see it. You can see a pathway to a bright surfing future if you’re north of 40. Whereas with Kelly… no one can really relate to it. It’s almost like, ‘Why do you want to try that hard?’ But Curren’s surfing, for all the rest of us, it’s just like, ‘Yes.’ It’s a license to not try too hard. You can get on a wave and stand there and just enjoy the glide and make it look like the most natural thing on earth.”