Drug Abuse: An Overlooked Blight on the Surfing Community?
The issue of drugs in sport has been talked about time and again, with ongoing cases of high profile drug cheats being uncovered from Carl Lewis to Lance Armstrong. However, the issue with drugs and surfing is a little more complex than athletes taking performance enhancing drugs to get to the top. Surfing is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. The surfing lifestyle has had a perceived image since the 1950’s and 60’s when it first came into the spotlight; the relaxed party scene where the sport and party atmosphere were one and the same. It seems as if the general view of the surfing community was for ‘happy go lucky’ spirits who simply like to follow the surf and have a good time. Recreational drugs have always been an unspoken yet widely accepted part of the culture, which is something which has changed over the last 25 years....
Although it was not the first incident of its kind, the death of Surfing Legend and 3 Time World Champion, Andy Irons in 2010 sent shockwaves through the surfing world, and has acted as a wakeup call to many. It served as an alarm bell to those who never really considering the potential consequences of their choices. His death was a tragedy and a harsh reminder to everyone in the community that life is precious and can take down anyone at any time. There are now support systems in place helping those addicted to narcotics to make a change in their lives, which is an important step in the right direction. In the past the problem was kept largely under wraps and support was harder to find, which is why some surfers ended up suffering from physical and mental issues later in life as the lifestyle took its toll on them.
Apart from the social aspect of the drug scene in surfing, there has also been a shift in recent years towards the professionalism of the sport itself. In the past surfers were aware that they were not likely to make mega bucks by perusing a career in surfing, and were wholly committed to the lifestyle that went with the scene at the time. This meant living it up as best as possible and getting the most out of life whilst the opportunity was there. These days’ top surfers can make a tidy living and if they play their hand right can set themselves up for life with a career doing something they love. This has lead to a progression in the lifestyle to become more in line with that of ‘mainstream’ professional sports players. The future looks bright for the world of surfing, with countless youngsters looking up to professional role models. The party spirit will never leave the surfing community, and nor should it, however it does seem as if a new mood has taken over, one of passion, caution, dedication, fun and professionalism.
Positive Role Models
Surfing is moving into a new age, and there are many great role models within the community who are trying to encourage positive decision making. Surf legends such as Buttons Kaluhiokalani have talked publically about their past with drugs and about making the right choices to avoid similar mistakes, which is a very positive thing for the sport and community at large. Each generation of surfers learns from the last, and now that there are positive role models warning against the dangers of drug use, the new generation coming through today will be better prepared to avoid the pitfalls of the drug party culture. There is a lot to gain from living a clean and healthy lifestyle, and this is now being openly promoted within the surf community. Drugs are no longer an un-discussed way of life within surf communities, but a problem which is being openly advised against. It is never easy to shake off a reputation, but surfing is heading in the right direction and is carving a new path for itself.