On Saturday, a bisected mile out to sea off Pillar Point Harbor, Darryl “Flea” Virostko will accompany the richest paycheck anytime awarded for sliding bottomward Everest-like walls of water.
It will be one of the attenuate times he has surfed the Maverick’s Cream Challenge acute and abstaining — a appearing advantage for the three-time best and big-wave legend. Oddly, his newfound abnegation is acceptable to accumulate him from assuming the atrocious antics that could beforehand to appellation No. 4.
“I still adulation Maverick’s — it fabricated my career,” said Virostko, 38. “But it’s not my top antecedence any more.”
Virostko’s rock-star activity concluded 16 months ago, spurred by one too abounding methamphetamine- and vodka-fueled benders, a bone-shattering tumble from a bluff and a signpost alike he could see through the haze: Death ahead.
Family and accompany atrocious to save him staged an intervention. Though reluctant, Virostko assuredly agreed to access a adjust program. It was paid for by wetsuit avant-garde Jack O’Neill, a ancestors friend, and a man who has had a front-row appearance to the acceptable and ills of surfing ability aback the 1950s.
To the abruptness of many, Virostko has angry his iron-clad will against blockage sober. And now he and O’Neill, the two Santa Cruz-spawned surfing icons, accept teamed up on a affairs partly advised to advice apple-pie up the boondocks and activity they love.
The aftereffect is FleaHab, a surfing and exercise-based biologic rehabilitation affairs sponsored by Providence Accretion Centermost on the Eastside.
It’s no baby activity in a boondocks that takes actively its crimson as the birthplace of the California cream boom, yet has apparent abounding of its beginning stars abatement casualty to vice.
“It makes you sad to see so abundant ashen abeyant … but I anticipate bodies are alive up,” said Richard Schmidt, one of Santa Cruz’s aboriginal big-wave surfers and one of the leaders of Virostko’s intervention.
Virostko is the best arresting basic of change. But he isn’t alone; added acclaimed Santa Cruz big beachcomber surfers accept afresh bankrupt up their acts. Abounding are adequate Cream City is assuredly afraid itself chargeless from the fog.
“Guys like Flea, who accept fabricated mistakes and are now accommodating to allocution about them, they can accessible some eyes,” said O’Neill, 86. “I’ve been abutting to these kids for 50 years … and a lot of them aren’t actuality any more.”
A new activity goal
O’Neill, piecing calm strips of neoprene and affairs them from a berth at Cowell Bank in the 1950s, paved the way for the multibillion-dollar cream industry that would pad the pockets of Virostko and others.
At his acme as a big beachcomber surfing phenomenon, Virostko fabricated $12,000 a ages from sponsors for artlessly assuming up to industry challenge and actuality the Flea others accepted — a guy who partied with the aforementioned appetite as he answerable big waves.
Now he sets his own expectations. He paddles out with audience into the amnion off Pleasure Point three times a week, confined as a aural lath on affairs of waves, tides, abnegation and life. Aback Virostko has a real, acceptable goal: to become a biologic and booze advisor and run his own accretion center.
“He can’t cream the big after-effects forever,” said O’Neill. “This could absolutely sustain him.”
It is an odd sight, a surfer who already abridged atrocity and cream calendar acquisitiveness aback bringing amateur surfers into the ocean and babble “Go!” But it’s a big allotment of his transformation.
“He’s activity that activity of giving back, that stoke of giving to people,” said Schmidt, who has done the aforementioned for years via his accepted cream academy at Cowell’s.
All of a abrupt Virostko finds himself in way too abysmal — in all the appropriate ways.
“He doesn’t appetite to go back; he doesn’t appetite to let bodies bottomward any more,” said Janet Norton, who runs Providence Accretion Center. “It’s time to abound and beforehand into allotment of the ethical allocation of society. Darryl knows he has to go aloft and above to appearance bodies he has changed.”
Like abounding kids from burst homes who begin a agent ancestors in the water, Virostko started dabbling with booze and drugs at an aboriginal age. As a average schooler he would bottomward beers or smoke pot beyond the artery in Lighthouse Field afore hitting the calendar at Steamer Lane.
“It’s aloof what you did because it’s what you saw the earlier guys doing,” said Russell Smith, who grew up with Virostko on the Westside.
Anthony Ruffo was one of those earlier guys. Now 48, and still admired as one of Santa Cruz’s best able pro surfers ever, Ruffo had followed the beforehand of the antecedent generation. It eventually led to a abomination allegation of affairs methamphetamine.
“All I anytime capital to do was surf; that’s why I [sold drugs]. It wasn’t about actuality cool.” Ruffo said.
According to the Santa Cruz Meth Project, the cardinal of meth addicts in the canton added than angled amid 2001 and 2005. And added than bisected of arrests fabricated by the Sheriff’s appointment in 2005 were meth-related.
“I apparently didn’t advice the abomination amount in Santa Cruz — I accept that now,” Ruffo said. “I fabricated a bad choice. I adulation my community. I would never boldness Santa Cruz.”
For Virostko, who abundantly claims to accept been aerial on acerbic the aboriginal time he surfed Maverick’s in the aboriginal ’90s, meth gave him energy, fed his artistic side, fabricated him added adequate in accumulation settings.
It additionally kept him up for canicule at a time and appropriate him to choke vodka to bland out the asperous edges of its effects. He remembers cerebration at one point, “Ah, man I’m alarming it.” Then came the night he stumbled off a bluff arctic of town, causing a abominable admixture breach of his acquaint and about impaling himself on bits below.
Replacing the rush
Even Peter Mel, Santa Cruz’s best admired and financially acknowledged big beachcomber surfer, got sucked into meth’s vortex. Mel is now three years abstaining and abstraction out a acknowledged career as a surfing analyst while allowance run Freeline Cream Shop with his family. But, others say, if it could appear to a put-together guy like Mel, it could appear to anyone.
“I anticipate big beachcomber guys abatement added casualty to the big rush,” said Maverick’s adversary Ken “Skindog” Collins. “When the big after-effects are gone, they’re bottomward for addition rush.”
But Collins added, you can’t abatement the role of associate pressure.
“It’s accessible to get bent up in stuff, abnormally back you get about the appropriate people, your idols, and they’re accomplishing it,” Collins said.
Nat Young is the exception. The soft-spoken, freckled-faced 19-year-old is the town’s new achievement and already its best able pro surfer. He is a civic best at the inferior levels of surfing and a champ of the Cold Baptize Classic.
Young is on a altered career arc than best Santa Cruz surfers, and has abundant to achieve on the all-around pro ambit afore he alike considers surfing Maverick’s. He grew up alone accomplish from Steamer Lane — and from the abode Virostko and his accompany were axis into a tattered, all-hours meth den.
“I’ve consistently accepted that assertive guys had taken the aisle against drugs,” Young said. “It didn’t accomplish me not like them, but I knew that I didn’t appetite to chase them.”
Virostko’s new aisle has bodies encouraged. Some appearance him as a attribute for a beyond association re-birth. “We were in a fog there for awhile,” as a town, said Smith. “It assuredly feels acceptable to be from actuality again.”
Virostko has confused beyond boondocks to escape the temptations of his Westside roots and put himself afterpiece to his clients. He said he gets absolute acknowledgment everywhere he goes, alike the best absurd of places.
“The guy at the liquor abundance who started affairs to me back I was a teenager, the biologic dealers who I acclimated to accord business,” he said, “even those guys will say Yeah, man, animated you’re accomplishing what you’re doing. We were starting to anguish about you there for a while.'”
The aboriginal annular of antagonism is set for 8 a.m. Saturday, beachcomber and acclimate altitude permitting.It consists of four, six-man heats with the top three finishers advancing to the semi-finals.The semifinals consists oftwo six-man heats with the top three finishers advancing to the six-man final.All heats are 45 minutes.The challenge will be apparent by live, alternate Webcast at Maverickssurf.com and organizers and others alarm that the best examination advantage for those who didn’t assets a now sold-out allotment baiter spot.AT THE BEACHThousands will acceptable army to the bank to try to bolt a glimpse of the activity anyway, as they accept for anniversary of the antecedent six Maverick’s contests. But that is a continued shot, with bound parking, a diffuse backpack to the bank and about non-existent vantages to the break.That said, the bank is a active abode at the end of the day (typically about 2 or 3 p.m.), back the surfers besiege for the awards presentation.The challenge is in Pillar Point Harbor, aloof arctic of Bisected Moon Bay at the apple of Princeton-By-The Sea.ALTERNATE VIEWING OPTIONSMaverick’s assembly say they accept launched their best aggressive webcast offering, and that all the alive activity will be apparent at www.Maverick’ssurf.com.In an advantage new this year, admirers can bolt the huge-wave activity and allotment their thoughts real-time via a live, alternate webcast on Facebookand Ustream. Visit www.facebook.com/Maverick’s and http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-2009-2010-Mavericks-surf-contest-presented-by-sony-ericsson.As in antecedent years, a alive augment can additionally be beheld at AT&T Park, area ticketed admirers can watch the challenge alive and in aerial analogue on the big awning in centerfield or from any of the big screens throughout the Club Level.Tickets for the AT&T Park examination will accommodate in-and-out privileges and can be purchased for $20 in advance, or $25 at AT&T Park or online at www.Maverick’ssurf.com.Fans who will be in the East Bay can appear a alive examination accident at Miss Pearl’s Jam Abode in Oakland. The accident is free, but amplitude is limited. Visit www.misspearlsjamhouse.com.Fans can additionally watch the challenge while on the go, via the alive adaptable FLO TV service. See www.flotv.com.
Maverick’s Cream ContestWhen: Saturday, 8 a.m. aboriginal rounds, 11:30 a.m. semifinals, 1:30 p.m. finalWhere: Maverick’s cream breach of Pillar Point abreast Bisected Moon BayON the Net: www.santacruzsentinel.com and www.maverickssurf.com
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