Whether at work, home, or in the ocean, Curt Harper, a 49-year-old surfer with autism, fully dedicates himself, and is making waves through the Southern California surfing community.
“Curt” is a documentary, directed by Brendan Hearne, that follows the local surfer’s inspiring story.
“I have friends that got me into it so I just started going,” said Harper in the short film. “The reason why I surf is it’s a lot of fun, and now I’m doing surf contests and now I’ve got so many friends.”
Diagnosed at two-years-old, Curt found success despite the obstacles in his life. He started surfing at the age of 10 and fell in love with it. After years of making friends and establishing a trusting relationship with the families at the beach, Harper began to take their kids to the beach when the parents were unavailable.
“Everybody that surfs in Southern California knows Curt. He’s famous,” said pro surfer Dane Reynolds, who began surfing with Curt when he was 12.
Even after generations of taking “groms,” or little surfers, to the ocean, Harper is constantly making friends with the local surfers and stays active with the surfing community by participating in surf competitions, including the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA).
“Curt brings that element of fun to the beach,” said Janice Aragon, NSSA Executive Director.
Along with surfing, Harper works at William Morris Endeavor as a mailroom staffer, a position he has held for 17 years, to pay for his food, bills, and surf competitions. His passions are not limited to surfing, though, as Harper knows the entire United States rail system, and loves listening to his police scanner.
Surfing gave Curt the chance build relationships and to connect with other people socially, a challenge for many high-functioning autistic people. The short film’s director and producer both began surfing with Curt at a young age, and have remained friends with him to this day. The relationships between his coworkers, the groms, and with his family shows how much Harper truly cares for people.
“I’ve always hoped that Curt would find love and acceptance and companionship, and I think any parent worries that when they are no longer around that that close knit support group will no longer be there,” said Curt’s mother.
“I think that’s what surfing is,” said Curt’s father.