In 2004 Surfer magazine published a brief, 300-word story I wrote about Santa Cruz's Anthony Ruffo getting busted for selling/possessing methamphetamines. I almost lost my job because of it. In Santa Cruz a petition was circulated around town and sent into Surfer calling for me to be removed from my post as Managing Editor. Not because of poor reporting -- although the rub against me was that I went straight off the police report and didn't call Ruffo himself to get a quote (which was impossible as he was incarcerated at the time) -- no, what really caused the drama was the fact that I'd even consider writing/publishing something like that. In the faux world of "surf journalism" the tendency is to talk about how great the swell was or how hard somebody was ripping, and leave out the dirty details of people's private lives. As then-publisher Rick Irons explained to me, Ruffo's a legend in our sport and industry, and I should have had more respect for him. My respect for somebody stops when they start peddling speed to kids.
Fast foward to last week, and Mr. Ruffo has been arrested yet again. As the San Jose Mercury News reported last Thursday: "Officers raided Ruffo's house Wednesday morning and seized more than an ounce of near-pure methamphetamine worth more than $3,000 on the street. Thursday morning, police went to a Lee Street house, near Emeline Avenue, where they arrested eight people and found drugs and two guns, according to Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Rick Martinez."
The path that Ruffo finds himself going down is a tragedy, and hopefully he can right his course. He's brilliant waterman, a pioneer in Northern California's big-wave scene, but unfortunately continues to make poor decisions. With his name all over the headlines, Ruffo's the easiest to point to, but he's hardly been the only surfer in Santa Cruz to dabble with the darkside. There are numerous surfers in the area that have struggled with the drug, including Maverick's icon Darryl "Flea" Virostko. And while Flea and others have made it through and been able to re-invent themselves, others have fallen victim. "It got dark up here. Dark, dark, dark ... It got grim," said former WCT competitor Adam Replogle in an interview with Kimball Taylor for his feature on Flea that ran in Surfer magazine, "The partying started in high school and continued on, until that substance hit." Or if you really want to see the damage that speed can do look no further than the Ice epidemic in Hawaii. The once pastoral setting of Makaha has become a virtual war zone. People and families that have lived there for decades are now uprooting and looking to resettle in other, less hostile parts of the islands. As a U.S. Attorney's statistic illustrates, "nationally in 2001 14% of sentenced traffickers were involved with methamphetamines. In Hawaii the rate was 51%."
All I'm trying to say is that as a surfing population, we can't start to shake this horrible trend until we come to grips with it, and the only way to even start to do that is by talking about it. So, while the online hubs of American surfing busy themselves reporting on how great Jordy Smith is or the fact that Taylor Steele's Innersection is the biggest thing on the web right now, I figured I'd throw caution to the wind, and at risk of having another petition circulated, blog about something that's having a direct, and very negative impact on the sport and lifestyle we all pursue so vigorously.