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.
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