Just a gentle reminder of that blue elephant in the room. We have an article submission we wanted to pass along. Mahalo to Eve Pearce.
Pushing Drugs out of the Waves
Drugs have been a part of the surfing scene since its inception half a century ago. First the 60s and 70s saw surfers experimenting with marijuana, then cocaine came on the scene in the 80s. The 90s was the decade of ecstasy and amphetamines and more recently, as crystal meth has ravaged traditional surfing communities in places like Hawaii, it has also taken its toll on the surfers themselves. Tom Carroll’s recent admission of his crystal meth, or ‘ice’, addiction shows that even the best can succumb to dependence. You can almost see a fight for surfing’s soul.... ...Some want surfing to stay true to its roots. The surf culture, the beach lifestyle, and the spiritualism. Recreational drug taking has always been a big part of this counter-culture and these people see themselves as free from the restraints of regular life, and free to smoke, imbibe, and inject whatever they choose. They may not want drugs in the sport, but they see the use of recreational drugs as just part of the lifestyle, almost a necessary evil.
Then there is a growing voice, wanting to spread the popularity of recreational surfing as well as make the sport more professional. These people would welcome drug testing at the big events, hoping that it will show newcomers to the sport that you can ride great while clean. They see that if surfing does want itself taken seriously alongside other sports, then drug testing has to be mandatory. In a recent interview, Kelly Slater complained that though the ASP had made head way towards testing the surfers on the tour, the effort had petered out. Those at the top can compare themselves to elite athletes from any sport. Prize pots for the top surfing events on tour can reach up to $500,000. If drugs rampage through the surf this money will disappear as the sponsors run.
Most non-surfers and surfers alike would see surfing as a very healthy sport. You imagine bronzed, fit individuals who look after the bodies that are providing their paycheck. Smoothies, green vegetables and exercise abound. Surfing is often seen as one of the most pure pursuits you can partake in, whereas drug taking is anything but. There you imagine darkness, slumber and wasting. Not only do drugs take hold of your mind, they also ravage your body. Lung damage from smoking, heart damage from pills, or spreading disease from contaminated needles – none of these seem likely to make the surfers better on the waves. The two are polar opposites. It seems amazing that anyone would be able to combine them both, but a worrying number of surfers do. Carroll’s interview with 60 minutes show that eventually, one has to win over the other. Luckily for him it was surfing and life that won. For others, the drugs will get there first.
Surfing as rehab
The adrenaline rush of riding a wave, or the calming nature of the smooth ocean can both help people battle inner demons. Though drugs have afflicted the surfing community, surfing can also be the answer, for both surfers and non-surfers. The physical demands of surfing, along with its more spiritual roots make it an ideal sport for those in rehab. If you have an addictive personality that lead to drug use, then why not harness that and become addicted to adrenaline. Or even better, addicted to health. More importantly though, the strength and camaraderie of surfing communities mean people can find the friendship and support most needed to stay clean and healthy. The same close-knit groups that can apply peer pressure to take drugs, can also, if nudged in the right direction, provide the positive pressure to steer clear of them.
Leaders in the surfing community, along with the ASP and the companies that sponsor surfing events can therefore all have a positive role to play on pushing drugs out of the surfing scene. Some already are making those positive steps. The Bill W. Surf Contest in Santa Monica is a competition open exclusively to surfers in recovery. If these groups show strength and realize that attachment to the seedier side of the surfing culture is damaging young lives and literally killing people then it is possible to see a future where surfing retains it counter-culture, fun-loving free lifestyle, while pushing drugs away from the shores into the deep, dark ocean.