Tate Curran rides high as surfer, pole vaulter

At 6:43 on a Monday morning, Tate Curran is charging straight ahead, barefoot on wet sand adjacent to the Hermosa Beach Pier.

He plunges head first into the 61-degree ocean water, quickly rising on his surfboard before disappearing under a wave. He then begins paddling out for his morning adrenaline rush.

Protected by his black wet suit and a fearlessness that’s ingrained his genes, Curran makes his first-period surf class look anything but ordinary.

Back and forth he maneuvers with the agility of a gymnast. And suddenly it becomes very clear how the best surfer at Redondo High is also a 17-foot pole vaulter set to compete in Saturday’s Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High.

“You have to be a little crazy and a little weird to pole vault,” he said. “There’s definitely a little community that are pole vaulters and end up surfers.”

Curran was destined to do both, though it took longer than many people thought. His father, Anthony, has been coaching the pole vault at UCLA since 1983. Anthony in 1978 set what was then a national high school record when he cleared 17 feet, 4 1/4 inches for Encino Crespi High. He and five brothers were into pole vaulting and surfing.

Tate was shy growing up but he liked surfing. He played basketball, baseball, soccer and golf. He’s been home schooled all his life and never competed in the pole vault until his freshman year at Redondo.

“I’ve been around it so long,” he said. “It was always in the back of my head but I didn’t really enjoy doing it.”

He wanted to participate in high school sports, so he joined the Redondo surf team and track team.

“I fell in love because everything I do in pole vaulting is toward my uncles’ or dad’s or family records,” he said.

His father reached 14-9 as a freshman and made what he thought was a safe bet, telling Tate he’d never go 14-9 before he turned 15.

“I said it kind of under my tongue and he took it seriously,” Anthony said.

Tate went on to reach 14-9.

“He said he’d give me $1,000. He kept his promise,” Tate said. “After that, he said he would never do any more pole-vault betting.”

Well, Anthony did say he’d give his son one quarter for every situp he did.

“He got extremely strong in a short period of time,” Anthony said.

Curran, 5 feet 9, 160 pounds, cleared 17 feet last month during a meet at Redondo. It was a moment he’ll never forget.

“Honestly, it was all pretty quick,” he said. “Once I got off the bar and fell into the pit, it was almost like complete silence and I realized the bar was still up. Me and my dad were kind of freaking out at the same point. When I jumped 17 feet, it was the most unbelievable feeling I’ve ever felt.”

There could be another unbelievable feeling coming shortly, if he goes 17-4 1/2, surpassing his father’s best. It seems inevitable the way Tate keeps using his athleticism and improving strength.

Curran was named the top surfer for Redondo’s surf team. He surfs three times a week in the morning, waking up at 5:45 a.m. He also is taking classes at El Camino College and will attend junior college next year before transferring to a four-year school.

Curran has cousins who have been professional surfers and the sport has turned out to be ideal as a cross trainer for pole vaulting. His shoulders and upper body are strengthened by paddling. His running for pole vaulting helps for moves on his surfboard. “I can do bigger turns,” he said.

The Arcadia Invitational is considered the best track and field meet other than the state championships. The atmosphere is electric.

“Arcadia is incredible,” Curran said.

So is watching him ride a wave.


High school track and field

What: Arcadia Invitational

Where: At Arcadia High School

When: Friday night relays: 4:30 p.m. to 10:10 p.m. Saturday Open session: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Invitational: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tickets: Friday, $9; Saturday, $18.


Twitter: @latsondheimer

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

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