Professional surfers can be rockstars at times. Perhaps that’s why so many think they are or try to be musicians. Musicians get a free pass. They can get arrested, do every drug in the book, drink massive amounts of booze and the end result is they sell more records. They make more money.
It’s not so simple for the professional athlete. Image is everything. Keeping sponsors happy and avoiding negative press is of utmost importance. Unless you ride for …Lost. Then partying is in the contract. There’s a reason they don’t hold the NBA All-Star Game and an ASP event in the same city at the same time. Every weed dealer in town would run dry. It’s a supply and demand thing.
But surfers and pro basketball players aren’t the only dysfunctional athletes. Stars in literally every sport enjoy the booze, the drugs and the women.
Recently, tennis player Andre Agassi wrote a book in which he admitted to doing meth at the peak of his pro career. Plus, he wore a hairpiece. He was more ashamed of the rug on his head. In 1970 Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis no-hit the San Diego Padres. An impressive feat. Shockingly, he did it while on LSD. Reminds me of a certain Santa Cruz surfer we know and love. Doesn’t it?
There are so many classic and not-so-classic stories of surfers falling off the deep end or pushing the limits. There was the high-profile surfer who smuggled coke back from the world champs in Peru to Hawaii glassed into his boards. Or the eclectic Australian who once paddled out at Waimea on a 5’9″ after eating mushrooms.
Then there’s the time Rod Kerr showed up at Zarautz absolutely shitfaced after an all-nighter, paddled out against Richie Collins, threw up in the shorebreak and smoked the god-fearing Christian. Richie was so rattled he went to Rod’s place that night with a bottle of bourbon and insisted they demolish it together.
And who could forget the antics and excess of Bunker Spreckles?
Frankly, this list could be a top 100. But, I had to narrow it to five. In my criteria partying expertise alone did not win you a spot. Competitive success along with media exposure was part of the equation. And I narrowed the scope to include just the last 20 years. If you feel I missed someone, or you do not agree, be sure and voice your thoughts in the comments.
5. Eugene Fanning
He has a world title and who could forget the time he crashed Slater’s acceptance speech at the Surfer Poll drunk off his ass. When Kelly put his arm around Fanning on stage and asked what would happen if he showed up in Australia and acted that way, his response was “You’d get laid.” I miss Eugene.
4. Christian Fletcher
I first saw Christian surf in person at Churches one summer afternoon. I think it was around 1986. I was just a little tyke. I was amazed when I saw him pull off two airs on one wave. I couldn’t believe such a thing was possible. His rise and demise has been well documented. It’s even rumored Jeff Booth is no longer jealous.
3. Darryl “Flea” Virostko
Anyone who surfs Mavericks for the first time on a half a hit of acid deserves to be on this list. Flea’s struggles with meth have been widely reported and he has recently cleaned up his act and started a program called FleaHab to give back.
2. Andy Irons
The three-time world champ had a long and tumultuous 2008. He even dropped out of the WCT. Rumors of addiction and an ensuing rehab swirled wildly. He hasn’t officially told “his” story yet and I’d be surprised if he didn’t already have a book deal in place. One thing is for certain. The WCT will be better in 2010 with Andy on board.
1. Mark Occhilupo
Occy is a legend for sure. We love him. After prematurely quitting the tour at 22, Occy went into hermit mode. He story is perhaps the best and that is why he tops the list. In the late ’80s Occy drove a Harley Davidson into the back of a car and did a full somersault over the handle bars, over the car, and landed on his feet. Hard to imagine but witnesses on hand swear it’s a true story. You have to admire Billabong for not giving up on him. The fact he battled back and won the world title in 1999 was an extraordinary achievement. Don’t believe me? Nine-time champ Kelly Slater called it “one of the great sports stories of all time.” And who can argue with that?—Nug