Sunny Garcia movie Death and Taxes: “He worked out. That’s how he chased the demons but they were there”

"There an irony to him being named Sunny because such a complex, sometimes dark side to him," says Death and Taxes director Michael Oblowitz.

Michael Oblowitz is one of my favorite film makers ever. You may recognize his name from the still unreleased masterpiece Sea of Darkness or the just released Nathan Fletcher film Heavy Water but Michael has also spent the past decade working on an unabridged documentary about the life of Sunny Garcia currently titled Death and Taxes.

A decade working on one film is a long, long time but Sunny necessitated it.

“Right when I think we’re finished…” Michael says through his gravely South African lilt “…Sunny will say, ‘Oh, I also spent my childhood hanging around with such and such.’ And then we have another important interview to chase.”

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Kelly Slater decorates Sunny’s surfboard with Posca Pen circa 1992-ish. Photo by Steve Sherman/@tsherms

I called him for a bit of insight.

He has sat with thousands upon thousands of hours of footage of Sunny, with Sunny himself and with so many of Sunny’s friends and family.

“During the 10 years of filming, Sunny has lost so many people close to him. Marvin Foster, Andy Irons, Buttons, Jay Adams. People so integral to his life and that’s just so… hard. I regard Sunny as one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Where he came from and what he achieved? I mean, a lot of great, great surfers came out of Makaha but only one of them won a world title and what Sunny had to go through to get it, the racism, abuse, cards stacked so high against him, it is a tremendous work.

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Andy Irons and Sunny Garcia. By Steve Sherman/@tsherms

There’s a line in the film where Sunny says, ‘I wanted to be the Mohammed Ali of surfing.’ And he was. He really was. But for all the love, for all his accomplishments, I don’t know that he ever felt it. We have some footage, after he won the HIC Pro in 2016, which was an amazing victory. There he is with the big cardboard check and his grandson on his arm. It should have been the most victorious feeling but I just don’t think it was for him.

“There an irony to him being named Sunny because such a complex, sometimes dark side to him and I don’t mean drugs and alcohol. I’ve never seen him take so much as one sip of beer. He worked out. That’s how he chased the demons but they were there.”

Oblowitz pauses.

“We are all praying, even atheists are praying. That’s how much we love this guy.”

Update: Sunny Garcia in intensive care unit at Portland, Oregon hospital.

Still many more questions than answers.

There are still many more questions than answers about surfing great Sunny Garcia’s current situation, though it is now understood that he is in the intensive care unit at a Portland, Oregon area hospital.

The very first reports, coming out of Brazil, suggested his life was cut short but those have since been walked back. The International Business Times has reported that his hospitalization is due an alleged suicide but it is not corroborated nor is the source cited.

The World Surf League posted on its website:

The league confirmed “with heavy hearts” that Garcia has been admitted to the intensive care unit at an unspecified hospital amid speculation about his condition late Monday. The 49-year-old Hawaiian has won the Triple Crown of Surfing — which consists of three challenging events off the coast of Oahu — on six occasions, most recently in 2004. Sunny has always been a great champion of surfing, both in and out of the water. Our prayers are with him and his loved ones at this deeply challenging time.

Again, more questions than answers and many rumors are floating but the picture will certainly continue to clear up as the day moves along.

I spoke with Sunny a few times. His earnestness and thoughtfulness a revelation. One of my favorite Sunny stories was when he and Jeremy Flores teamed up to bring justice to an unruly Gold Coast scene. At the time I wrote, “Our surf world would be as boring as synchronized swimming without the likes of Sunny Garcia. Tattoo’d rage. Tax-evading awesome.”

As true then as it is now.

More as the story continues to develop.

"Surly Hawaiian power surfer from Waianae, Oahu; 2000 world champion and six-time winner of the Triple Crown; described by surf journalist Derek Hynd as 'a modern-day Cassius Clay...a slick, black nightmare come to whup some ass.'"

Breaking: Surfers flooding Instagram with messages of support and hope for Sunny Garcia.

Many rumors are floating around, none substantiated.

Sunny Garcia is an indelible figure of our surf world.

The powerful Hawaiian, strong and handsome, ruled the 90s and 00s with a singular style and unparalleled elan.

Matt Warshaw, surfing’s historian, wrote an introduction that can not be topped.

“Surly Hawaiian power surfer from Waianae, Oahu; 2000 world champion and six-time winner of the Triple Crown; described by surf journalist Derek Hynd as ‘a modern-day Cassius Clay…a slick, black nightmare come to whup some ass.'”

In the last few moments, iconic surfers from Derek Ho to Raimana van Bastolear have flooded Instagram with messages of support and hope for Sunny, who is forty nine.

Derek writing, “Brother! Shared many good times!hang in there son!its not your time!only god knows!love you !we never get to say that enough until they’re gone!but you haven’t left yet!I will talk to you soon!our prayers are with you!!!the Ho family!”

Raimana adding, “Brother @sunnygarcia !! Come on!!! Stay with us!! Not your time!!! Love uuuu.”

Many rumors are floating around, none substantiated, including his hospitalisation after being found unconscious at home.

Sunny opened up about his fight with depression recently.

More as the story develops.

From the If-you-can’t-beat-them Dept: Drive into your SUP foil infested lineup today!

Ride anything!

I’ve known that cars that could double as boats were a thing since I first began doodling in my kindergarten notebook. Who amongst us hasn’t dreamed of our automobiles doing more than just boring old driving? And so, a few years later, when my father showed me a picture of an Amphibicar 770 I wanted one deeply.


The Amphibicar 770 was produced in West Germany from 1961 – 1965 and was a thing of beauty. I craved mine candy-apple red and imagined racing around the streets then splashing into the ocean at top speed, flying down the coast at tremendous speed too. Then my father told me they didn’t drive well and also didn’t boat well.

Dreams die hard and I still wanted one, as I got older, for surf exploration but then I had exclusively of old cars, a 1960 Ford Falcon, a 1965 Ford Ranchero, a 1972 MG Midget etc. and knew that my vintage Amphibicar, while looking cool, would only ever sit in the garage.

Well, yesterday I learned that the world’s oldest car company wholly owned by its founder is one that manufactures amphibious cars and let’s head straight in to a thorough description.

Is it a boat? Is it a car? Actually, it’s the best of both – an amphibious vehicle. It’s the ideal solution for anyone who fancies driving to the coast and then… well, motoring out to sea. For the past 50 years, Tim Dutton has been at the helm of his eponymous firm. He started out in 1969 and is justly proud of the fact Dutton is the oldest car company in the world still wholly owned by its founder. He is based in a workshop in the pretty village of Littlehampton where he has his own slipway into the River Arun. Visitors can take a Surf out for a test drive/cruise. You won’t be surprised to hear that owning a dinky Dutton is a niche interest – Tim sells about a dozen a year. Most drivers/captains just want to have fun – who wouldn’t in a vehicle that looks like a cross between a sports car and a rubber duck? – but there are more serious applications, too.

Yeah. I know what those serious applications are. Driving them into line-ups infested with SUP foils, like Santa Cruz’s Cowell’s Beach which saw last week’s VAL/SUP foil/surfing dog mix-up. It’s the apocalypse out there, a Dutton is no larger nor more dangerous than a SUP foil and, I would imagine, handles similarly.

My dream is back and, soon, it will be the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media and Studios dream too only he’ll stand on the back of his Dutton swinging a paddle.

To each his own, I suppose, as that is the motto of the apocalypse.

Ride anything!

Also, though, while we’re here… what is the greatest car you’ve ever owned?

Opinion: “To hell with anyone who thinks Simon Anderson (whoever he is) ruled Bells!”

Nostalgia is a helluva a drug!

Nobody does meta like BeachGrit and so how wonderful was the just wrapped Bells contest at Bells Beach just off Torquay, Australia? A two-ish hour drive from Melbourne also in Australia with the best avocado toast I’ve ever had?

How much did you love? How good did you think it was?

I’ll answer for you.

So good!

Between Jen See, Sam George, Steve “Longtom” Shearer (obviously and mostly. Raising surf journalism to a place today’s children will speak about in hushed tones (through crazy new voice-optics machines (sorry, I’m so technologically behind that I still use an iPhone 4 and don’t know what voice-optics would even begin to mean))) and you, The People™, the coverage was the best ever.

But mostly you, The People™, (and Longtom, The People’s Person™™).

A professional surf contest never better covered.


And so can we talk about nostalgia?

Should we?

There were many in the comments, ex-surf journalist/Hollywood screenplay-writer Ben Marcus chief amongst them (alongside Sam George), comparing this Bells contest to other Bells contests mostly from the early 1970s. And other surf contests from 1967. And other surf contests from when the Peruvians invented surfing long ago (buy here!)

But it was Ben Marcus, ex-surf journalist/music critic, who also weighed in on the relative glory of music in the 1970s, comparing the just wrapped best surf contest ever to the shit of music today.

On the Credence Clearwater Revival being better than Ariana Grande.

Fuck you, nostalgists.

Credence Clearwater Revival is an old wo/man band for old irrelevant times.

Just like Bells when Simon Andersen was surfing it.

Old-timey things are easy to praise because the book has been closed. The clock has stopped. It’s all over and, like old Coca-Cola before New Coke before Coca-Cola Classic, the memory grows in value even though the memory is artificial and mostly worthless.

Viva Ariana Grande.