About the Bay: Dark Side Of Santa Cruz Surfing Scene Exposed

SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) – Amid growing anticipation of the Mavericks Surf Contest, the case of a former Maverick’s champion is among those shining a spotlight on an unhealthy element of the local surfing scene: methamphetamine abuse.

For many surfers in Santa Cruz County, including some of the very best surfers in the world, big waves and meth go hand in hand.

“They don’t sleep for five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten days. They don’t know what’s real, they don’t know what’s not. That’s generally when we come into contact with them, as law enforcement goes, they’re off in a field somewhere, covered in blood and mud, screaming about something,” detailed Wes Hansen, a surfer himself, and an officer in the Santa Cruz Police Department.

“They’re big wave surfers,” he reasoned. “It’s an adrenaline rush but they can’t surf everyday, 24 hours a day. I think that was filling a hole for them.”

About the Bay – KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

Two weeks ago, one of the very best surfers in the world, Anthony Ruffo, was sentenced in Santa Cruz County Superior Court to a year in jail after pleading no contest to selling meth.

Ruffo’s sentencing comes on the heels of another surfing stunner: Three-time Mavericks champion Darryl “Flea” Virostko admitted to his own meth habit and enrolled in a rehab program.

“It took everybody by surprise,” said Hansen. “It was just kind of festering there and then all of a sudden something happened and all of a sudden it seemed like it was everywhere,” said Hansen.

Hansen took it upon himself – as a surfer and a cop – to get inside the Santa Cruz meth ring believed to involve some very prominent surfers.

“When I worked on the west side of town, I felt like, okay, here’s a chance. If I get involved in this, maybe I can actually help out the overall community,” he recalled.

He discovered that meth was a bigger problem for the community – it wasn’t limited to surfing circles.

“You see guys, west side surfers, with gang stuff painted on their surfboards,” said Hansen.

At Ruffo’s most recent court hearing, several families addressed the court by letter, claiming younger surfers’ lives were ruined by meth use. But, Hansen, hopes the worst of the problem is over.

“It all came crashing down,” he described the fallout from Ruffo and Virostko’s problems. “So they were able to kind of see the consequences and I think that that is huge.”

Ruffo has already begun serving his sentence in jail, and Virostko has started what he calls “Flea-Hab” – overcoming his addiction by working to help others do the same.

The window for this year’s Mavericks surf contest – one of the highlights of the surfing world’s calendar – is expected to remain open for another 10 days or so.

Related: Gerard Butler Completes Rehab Stint Following Mavericks Mishap

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

More from Mike Sugerman
  • I.B. Nelson

    Disgusting. I surfed for 40 years, from Bolinas to Ensenada, but mostly in Santa Cruz…I knew most most of the local surfing community. That someone involved in such a healthy sport that projects the image of youth and physical fitness, it absolutely baffles me that a surfer, especially a competitive surfer, would become involved with so awful a drug as meth. The only reason I can think of would be making a quick buck to avoid the drudgery of a job – a job that would take time away from surfing. But make no mistake about it: surfing itself is an addiction for the hard core adherent – find that good wave, ride it, paddle back out, catch another, repeat until your arms ache and cramp, or the light fails, and if the moon is bright enough, surf until it sets if the tide and waves are right. But I never thought of surfing as an evil addiction and certainly never ever considered surfing as a path to hard drug use. In the 70’s surfers drank but even that lost it’s charms and so I quit. From what I’ve seen, Meth destroys whatever it touches: God help my beloved Santa Cruz. Maybe it was a good thing I hung up my board and moved into the mountains. Anthony and Flea, what the *$#@ were you thinking??

  • lee

    The FBI and DEA use gang members to harass suspects. Several corrupt DEA and FBI are angry that I complained to the San Francisco Attorney General’s office. I complained that they where fabricating evidence and stealing from me. They also poisoned my dog to death.

    I do not think that the FBI or the DEA have authority, but several told me that if I did not stop complaining about the stealing, I could end up in rendition. D.O.J. employees are using the threat of rendition to extort money from suspects.

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