The long road home: Sunny Garcia “has said a few words and is now in therapy daily”

"It’s going to be a marathon not a sprint but we work every day to make sure he is surrounded with love, laughter and Ohana."

In an update via the GoFundMe page set-up to pay for the medical bills of former world champ Sunny Garcia his family reports,

“We are taking one day at a time and celebrating each little triumph. Sunny is a warrior and fighting everyday to get better and stronger. He has said a few words and is now in therapy daily – physical, speech and occupational. The family thanks you for your continued support for Sunny as he continues to heal. It’s going to be a marathon not a sprint but we work every day to make sure he is surrounded with love, laughter and Ohana.”

A family friend, Janae Twisselman, told the Hawaiian news channel Khon 2, “With the family members, he’s paying attention to voices. He can follow people’s faces. He’s moving his head. He’s speaking a few words. When he first started, he was in an induced coma a few months ago, and now we’re in a place where he’s functioning completely on his – you know for his physical self, his body – on his own.”

In April, Sunny, a perennial Triple Crown winner, was found unconscious at his home in Oregon, almost dead, and supposedly by his own hand.

A few weeks later, Sunny was off sedation, but still in a coma, with doctors treating his kidney and liver with dialysis (an induced coma, where the body and brain is anaesthetised often results in further complications). It was reported, then, that Sunny was “surprising doctors as he continues to get better.”

So far, $121,000 has been raised, of a $150k goal, to cover his myriad expenses.

Significant donations came from Jason Mamoa ($2000), Bruce Irons ($1500), GoPro’s Justin Wilkenfeld ($2000), moto-king Carey Hart ($1000), Hawaiian photographer Peter Hodgson ($1000) as well as cameos from Lyndie Irons, Nick and Tom Carroll, Luke Stedman, Ross Williams, Kirk Flintoff and Cory Lopez.

“If you are my friend I’ll go to war for you. I’ll give you the shirt off my back. But if I don’t know you and you are talking shit, or messing with my family or friends? Then I will punch you in the face. I don’t care. The press has always made me out to be a rough character but it is not who I really am. I just don’t have time for people I don’t coming up to me and causing problems.” SUNNY GARCIA

The most surprising donation came from Percy “Neco” Padaratz, who fled Pipeline in 2007 after he hassled hell out of Sunny in their Pipe Masters heat.

On the beach, Neco jumped a fence and climbed into the relative safety of the judges’ tower and was given a police escort back to his house.

When asked about his tough-guy image by Chas Smith, Sunny said, “I don’t fucking care. I don’t think of myself that way. If you are my friend I’ll go to war for you. I’ll give you the shirt off my back. But if I don’t know you and you are talking shit, or messing with my family or friends? Then I will punch you in the face. I don’t care. The press has always made me out to be a rough character but it is not who I really am. I just don’t have time for people I don’t coming up to me and causing problems. You would, too.”

Donate here. 

Watch: Son of Iconic Pro surfer shrugs off tour dream for interesting life!

The first of a three-part series about lesser-known but nevertheless compelling surfers…

Beau Cram, now that surname rings a bell, don’t it?

In the nineteen-eighties, his daddy, Richard, was a top ten pro with a physique that made women dizzy and a cutback that was all butcher’s knife. 

Richard, who is now fifty-eight, quit the tour in his twenties, said the sorta focus needed for success made people “really weird”, got a job and raised four boys Baden, 31, Dylan 29, and twins Jed and Beau, 25. 

Hit the play button or scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see what game Beau plays. 

Like all the Cram brothers, Beau’s surfing DNA is unmistakable. The power through turns. The drooping left hand. 

What marks Beau’s career trajectory from other shredders, and it forms the first of a three-part series of short films of interesting surfers by unsung auteur Danny Johnson (and funded by wetsuit company O’Neill), is the way he zigged into a carpentry gig instead of zagging into pro surfing. 

“I accepted the fact that it was going to be a fucking struggle to get to the very top and there were a lot more paths to take,” says Beau who, at three-thirts in the afternoon has just finished his day on the tools.

Daddy Richard was smart enough to persuade all of his kids to get a trade. Let ’em chase dreams but, you know, listen kiddo, you gotta get something solid behind you.

“I spent my whole school life, as most young competitive surfers do, just psyched on surfing and not paying attention to the teachers,” says Beau, who says finishing his apprenticeship was a “slog” but it means he has a freedom, and the cash, to chase waves.

“I try work half of the year and go away for the other half,” he says.

And, says Beau, “It’s a life skill. You’re learning step by step, how to efficiently manage your time, and how to create something on a budget. Going from being a boy in year twelve to a full-time job, it’s pretty honest.”

Beau says working on building sites makes him insanely keen to get into the water at the end of the day; pro surfing has the opposite effect. Your love becomes your job.

Loosed from the shackles of competition means Beau can ride whatever gives him that flicker of sweet kinship.

Right now, his room is filled with surfboards, ranging from five-four to six-ten, shaped by the American Chris Christenson, who learned his craft at the side of the Hawaiian Dick Brewer.

It ain’t homogenous, by any stretch.

From pistols to guns.

“Thrusters, long fishes, fishes, a few finless boards. It’s a joy to experiment with,” he says.

This six-minute short was filmed in South Africa, Mexico, Western Australia and New Zealand.

“All pretty fucken nice trips,” says Beau.

Co-Waterperson of the YearDirk Ziff (right) pictured with Tom Cruise's ex-wife Katie Holmes (5'9).
Co-Waterperson of the YearDirk Ziff (right) pictured with Tom Cruise's ex-wife Katie Holmes (5'9).

Question: If you were drowning, and co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff was in the water, would you feel confident?

Yes or no?

You have by now, no doubt, read the heroic story of two professional surfers who saved three girls from drowning just ahead of their heat in the Belmar Pro in my third favorite state New Jersey. Oh it was heartwarming, so heartwarming, in fact, that it forced me to pause and reconsider my normally grouchy ways.

Were you too won over?

Some of you yes but our friend shootsthen took a more prosaic approach on the moment in the comments, writing, “For experienced water persons, ‘saving’ people from the ocean is like opening the door for old people, it’s an act of common decency, not a newsworthy headline.”

An interesting point, to be sure, though jaded. Grumpy even.

Now, have you ever saved a person from the ocean? A flailing child? A VAL with too much water up his nose? I, myself, have guided a few pre-teens to shore, them using my Album surfboard (buy here) as floatation, after a “big set” caused panic but I’m no hero, no co-Waterperson of the Year, which brings us to the owner of professional surfing and co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff.

Let us pretend that you are out in the water “over your head” and something goes terribly wrong. Would you feel safe if you knew that co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff was there? Would you trust his instincts to jump in and rescue you?

A serious question and I don’t know the answer.

On one hand he is co-Waterperson of the Year. On the other, I’ve never seen a picture of him out of a collared shirt. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m wearing a collared shirt even as I type, pink even, but there’s something about his shoulders that give me pause. Something about his shoulder to waist ratio.



And it is beyond the pale that you, even for one moment, would consider that’d I’d participate in body shaming.

Shame on you, in fact.

I just want to know if you have ever saved a person from the ocean?

And if you’d trust co-Waterperson of the Year Dirk Ziff in saving you?

Damn it, I’ve totally fallen back into the grouchy again, haven’t I.

Well, “Good News” had a good run, didn’t it?

From the Good-News Dept: Two young pro junior surfers save drowning girls before their heat!

The new BeachGrit way!

And my goodness gracious if I haven’t been on a grouchy tear these past few days, hollering from my soapbox, kicking at DJ Steve Aoki’s cultural value, smirking at Kelly Slater’s fashion choices. A real Grumpy Gus but do you ever see those Good News websites? Ones that try and counter the dark, negative tone of today by only pushing out heart-warming stories? I have never been to one but Good News content regularly peppers my every day Internet consumption. Paid posts for: “Woman adopts fifteen pets after wildfires.” “Man builds gender-less treehouse for neighborhood kids.” That sort of business.

This morning I got to thinking that BeachGrit should include more Good News and, thankfully, there’s a wonderful story about two pro juniors who were waiting for their heat to begin at the Belmar Pro in New Jersey when they saw three teenage girls struggling in a rip current. What do you think they did? Hollered about VAL life? Screamed that DJ Steve Aoki hasn’t been meaningful for years? Yelled about midget tuxedo surfing vests and why the girls didn’t have them on?

Surprisingly no and let us turn to for the answer:

Without thinking twice, the New Jersey native Cole Deveney and his friend, Logan Hayes, swam past the jetty to the next beach, aiding the lifeguards in bringing the girls to safety, a NJ Advance Media photographer who was there to photograph the competition said.

The three girls were safe, albeit traumatized. The lifeguards helped them back to shore on their surfboards, the photographer said.

Even after saving the group of teens and helping lifeguards back to safety, Deveney and Hayes went back to compete in their heat.

What upstanding young men, demonstrating the new BeachGrit way (replacing fun-making, naughty-talking, beating a story to death, purposefully injecting high levels of shark paranoia into the mainstream population etc. for a happy few moments).

If tomorrow my English-born wife made the unilateral decision to move back with the kids I would follow as meek as a lamb and, quit.

Quit-Lit: “What would make you give up surfing? Be honest!”

Everyone has their breaking point.

We’ve already established in the newly formed, albeit protean field of quit literature, that sometimes it is merely a case of circumstance moving a man to a new town where surf is scarcer and the effort/reward ratio dips that causes the sword to be hung up.

Of course we all scoffed and/or thought “could not, would not happen to me” but maybe the truth is a little more prosaic.

Used to think I was pretty hard core.

Every fork in the road came my way I chose the one that went surf. Crewed a yacht from Hawaii to Guam, straight through the Marshalls, Micronesia. Days and days and weeks surfing empty atoll waves, anchored up in Kolonia harbour, surfing P-Pass before it was even a “thing”, before the Surfer mag cover blew it out.

Good waves, though, can be a curse, like the Egyptian Queen in Shakespeares Antony and Cleopatra they “make hungry where most they satisfy”. Their charms grow more compelling with time.

We rarely entertain sliding doors moments.

I could end up in Sydney, Bondi even. Honesty demands me to say I doubt I would last the distance. There would be some text messages from Derek, couple of go-outs. Then longer and longer radio silences. The lycra would beckon. An embarrassing encounter (or three) down on Campbell Parade with DR post surf and me in the lycra on the new road bike, eyes down.

Go-outs would shrivel up and die on the vine. I couldn’t cope with the downgrade. I think, like going down on all fours again after learning to walk and run. Sydney = quit for me.

Last week we had the week you dream about. Overhead every day, swells under the radar, hence few VAL’s around etc etc.

I got on the end of one with a bloke sitting with a dog on the grassy slope over-looking a local 300-yard Point wave. One guy out. We chatted.

“Out there?” I asked him.

He wasn’t out there. Was driving a truck and felt weird, so the story went. Stepped out and collapsed onto the road. Massive stroke. Forty years of surfing gone in an instant.

“You couldn’t get back out there?” I asked him.

“Took me twelve months to learn to walk again,” he said. “Surfing’s gone, it’s over. I watch now.”

Sunshine and swell beamed down on my local again yesterday. On the headland I saw a pal. Former pro surfer. One of the few with a winning record against Tom Curren. A man to whom old DH Lawrence could have been referring to when he said “For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive”.

Carved out of granite in his prime. He was downbeat, low energy.

“Everything OK?” I asked him.

“Nah, I’m really struggling eh.”

Anxiety and depression had him by the balls, were hollowing him out like an old dead tree.

What to do, what to say?

We’re told now surfing is an antidote to poor mental health but I think the causal arrow points the other way. Poor mental health robs the joy from surfing, makes people quit. I hugged him, told him I loved him, to call me if he wanted to talk and then paddled out.

He did not.

Mental health, strokes, heart attacks, city close-outs…what else would make me quit? Cold water, yep.

My babe is English. Whiles back, when the bub was still in arms, we went back with the aim of making a go of it in the Mother Country. We were holed up in Bournemouth, a Victorian* seaside town on the English Channel. There is surf there, and a surfing community.

When I say surf, I mean days when the narrow channel has been whipped into a rideable windswell. The water is cold, grey and polluted. It smells like wet dog and rotten sausages. The prime spots, next to Bournemouth and Boscombe piers,  magnificent, derelict structures, are surprisingly crowded.

I surfed, mostly to avoid causing my wife the embarrassment of explaining why her hard-core convict scum husband refused to paddle out.

If tomorrow she made the unilateral decision to move back to Bomo with the kids I would follow as meek as a lamb and, quit. A story on a pro surfer in Sweden whose daily bread is freezing cold onshore slop. Nope, quit.

Seattle, quit.

Boston, quit.

LA, quit.

San Diego, non-quit.

Newcastle(Aus), non-quit.

Florida, tarpon fishing.

Melbourne, quit.

Adelaide, quit.

Christchurch, quit.

Great Lakes, quit.

Holland, quit.

Scotland, quit. Well, maybe a splash and giggle once a year in the French shorebreak.

Not hard-core at all. Alhamdullilah, as Khabib would say.

Throw me out of the sub-tropics, away from warm blue water and good waves and I’d quit in a heartbeat. Soft core, to the core.

What would make you quit? Be honest.

Everyone has their breaking point. And what are your thoughts on this new genre of surf writing: quit lit?

Confronting or strangely comforting? Will it catch on? I think, yes.

*The Era, not the state in Australia.