Curren took some time off from surfing in the late 1980s, but he returned in 1990 to win an unprecedented third world title. He continued to compete through the early 1990s, but after 1992 he spent less and less time competing and more time doing other things. As he had throughout his career, Curren continued to appear in surfing cult-flick films, including The Endless Summer II in 1994. He also became even more famous through an ad series called The Search, featuring Curren searching the world for the perfect wave, produced by his sponsor Rip Curl.
After having been out of competition completely for several years, Curren mounted another comeback in 1997. Occhilupo made a comeback around the same time, and crowds were thrilled to see these two masters surfing against each other again. Curren quickly made it back into the upper ranks of surfers in the world, winning or finishing in the top three in several events in 1998. His wins in seasons since include the 2001 Quiksilver Pro at Lower Trestles, where he won his first professional competition ever in 1982. At the latter competition, even Curren's board was loaded with nostalgia: it was a replica of his famous Black Beauty board of the mid-1980s.
Curren remains an inspiration to thousands of young surfers, although he is uncomfortable about being given too much credit for influencing today's competitors. "Sometimes I feel old out there…. No, most of the time," he told Los Angeles Times reporter Erik Hamilton in 1999. "[S]urfing is changing. There's more of a technical aspect to it. I can't do the stuff these kids are doing." But those kids might not be competing with the spectacular aerial tricks that they perform today if Curren had not paved the way for Americans to be champions on the world tour.