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As Tommy paddles out toward the horizon, Jeanine takes a step back to get a better view. "Tommy doesn't quite understand it," she says, "but he's community property now." Marie walks up the beach to talk. Jeanine whispers a question to her daughter-in-law: Can Tommy and Marie make it to church tomorrow?
"I really don't want to go," answers Marie. "I tried it before, and I really didn't get anything out of it."
"But Tommy does."
"I really don't think we can make it," says Marie.
Pat Curren left home in August 1981, tired, he said, of Jeanine pushing her religion on him. "I just couldn't take it anymore," he says on the phone from Costa Rica. Father and son, so into their own worlds, were never close. "Maybe it was because I didn't make the effort," says Tommy. "But he'd work all day, have dinner and go to sleep."
Before Tommy's 1985 trip to Costa Rica, they had last seen each other in 1982, between contests in Hawaii. "He and Tom hardly talked," Marie says of that Hawaiian meeting. "It was like they were never really father and son."
Now 53, Pat lives on a banana and cacao farm near the town of Pavones. A friend from California owns the place. Pat passes the time building a 14-foot boat and taking long walks in the jungle. Does he plan on coming back? "I like it here," he says on the phone.
Tommy has many good memories of his Costa Rican visit. One is of father and son surfing together. "My dad surfs better now than he did 10 years ago," Tommy says proudly. "He's surfing small waves better than I've ever seen him."
Pat and Tommy talked while they were out on the water. "It's been hard for us to communicate," admits Tommy. "I understand now what was happening, why he left. He was having a lot of trouble and had one opportunity to change it. It's a shame he had to leave the family, particularly for myself, my sister and brother. But in the end, I think that it will be good."
In Curren's first year on tour, 1982, he won three contests, the Op Pro at Huntington Beach, the Marui Pro in Japan and the Straight Talk in Australia. But during the 1983-84 season he struggled. He finished ninth overall in the world standings but frequently lost in quarterfinal and semifinal heats. He dropped close decisions to his main Australian competition for the world title. Curren says he was "in a bit of a funk," but Merrick sees it differently.