the insider: lee-ann curren

she surfs. she sings. she’s awesome.

by rebecca willa davis

Most of us daydream about dropping everything to just play music or spend all day surfing. But Lee-Ann Curren has managed to do both. The Roxy team rider (whose dad is famous waver rider Tom Curren) balances her time hitting the beach and recording music with her band Betty the Shark. This summer, the two collide--in between training in her home of Biarritz, France, Curren is touring with her bandmate Philip Caradona (aka Charphil) and prepping an album. We caught up with the sun-bronzed blonde to find out just how she manages to balance both--and in the process, learned about the best spots to surf and where to find the coolest looking wetsuits.

You surf and you play music--how do you balance them both?

I guess I'll surf most of the time but maybe a couple of weeks here and there I'll focus on the music thing when I see Charphil--the guy who I write music with. We usually go places like the beach to surf. But it's really like I'll do a surf trip and I'll be surfing all day and do that and then keep playing more music but still training a bit.

It's funny, because the rock'n'roll lifestyle--late nights, hard partying--is so antithetical to the surfing lifestyle.

Well it's good to have both! Sometimes I like doing going to watch a band and not having to wake up super early. But I can still surf in the afternoon--it's not going to be as good though.

So we know how you got into surfing, but how did the band Betty The Shark come about?

Me and my friend Charphil and Christina--they're brother and sister and they lived in Biarritz but they're originally from New York and they live here now too--we were in high school together, just hanging out all day, we had guitars and so we made a band. It just started like that, and then two years ago me and Charphil were planning to make something, be more focused on it, and actually try to make an album.

Is it like a pen pal thing, where you work on music from afar?

Yeah, we do it sometimes. When we're together we just play and improvise and then something will be cool and then we'll be like, "Oh let's record this," so we don't forget. And if not, he'll start something and send it to me and then I write lyrics maybe and add my vocals on it or a little guitar part. We've written maybe six songs like that last winter between 2011 and 2012.

It's an interesting way to make music. How would you describe the resulting sound?

It's kind of like surf rock. Artist influences that we hear most of the time [would be] maybe Modest Mouse, stuff like that.

What's your favorite part of the music process? Writing, recording, or performing live?

I love writing because when you come up with something good, it's really exciting. And recording is fun too, you can play with all the effects or what tone you want, you can really see where you want to go. And playing live is so fun when you have a decent crowd and you feel like people are enjoying your music. But sometimes if the place is a little empty it can get a little awkward; I'm pretty shy too!

What's the biggest different between touring with the band and touring with surfers?

There's more nightlife, because you've got to play late in the day and wake up late, but then you go and see all these cool places and meet people. It's really different I think, but it's cool, I like it.

How far in advance of big surf competitions do you have to start training?

You can train all year, but last year I thought I was going to Tahiti and the waves are big there, so months in advance I started trying to work on staying in the water the whole time and being safer. Because I didn't want to get there and having partied for a month straight [laughs]! I had to watch myself and train a little bit, because you want to be confident--you don't want to be out of shape when these big waves come!

Where are your favorite places to surf?

I think Indo and Tahiti. Everywhere has spots [where beginners can surf], even where there's world class waves that are hard to surf, there might be a spot next to it that's really easy.

I'm sure you have access to everything Roxy makes--what are your personal favorites?

This is a new collection that [Roxy surfer] Kassia Meador has made and I really like it. It's only available in Europe right now but it's going to be available in the US in spring '14 I think. And her wetsuits too, they're really cool and those are available in the US right now! They're beautiful, conserve the warmth, and are comfortable. Other wetsuits from Roxy are usually black, so she has more fun colors, but that aren't too flashy either.

You're always traveling--what are your packing must-haves?

My surf boards! It's hard traveling with luggage of course--I usually have at least two boards, the most is four, it depends where I go. And an iPod for music. Sometimes I bring a guitar but it's hard. I usually just buy things everywhere I go, when I get there. So really just passport, money, boards, wetsuit, bikinis, music, and a computer.

Click here for more info on Betty The Shark, and here for more info on Lee-Ann.