Surfers are a clean living bunch on the whole, right?
Wrong. From the 1970s to the present day, pro surfers have mixed themselves up in everything from drug smuggling to large scale tax evasion.
Here are nine surfers who’ve felt the hand of the law….

1. Russel Winter and the sword brandishing incident

Russell Winter with his ornamental sword back at the 2006 O’Neill Highland Open. Photo: ASP Europe/O’Neill Europe

Russell Winter is the man many consider to be Britain’s best ever surfer has a reputation for standing up for what he believes in.

On July 30th this year, the Cornish Guardian reported that Winter had been arrested for pulling a large ‘ornamental’ sword on a group of men in Newquay after a dispute erupted over a bottle being smashed on the ground.

Whether it was the same sword he collected after winning the O’Neill Cold Water Classic in Thurso Scotland, 2006, is unclear (the winner’s trophy is a sword) although it does bare an uncanny resemblance.

Russ has always been one to stand up for who he is and what he stands for. You only have to look at the serve he gave his fellow British surfers last year after they voted to cancel the North East Open.
“I think this is pathetic that our future surfers lack any drive what so ever,” he fumed following the decision. You’ve been warned.

2. Al Merrick goes from narcotics to shaping

Al Merrick pictured  with Kelly Slater. Photo: Aroyan/A-Frame
Al Merrick pictured with Kelly Slater. Photo: Aroyan/A-Frame
Back before Al Merrick was making boards for pretty much every high profile surfer on the planet (Dane Reynolds, Conner Coffin, Kelly Slater and Rob Machado among them) he was just another swingin’ hipster puff-puff giving his way through the Summer of Love.

That was until he was busted for a sizeable amount of marijuana at home in Santa Barbara County, California and sentenced to eight months in Susanville’s correctional centre.

“There were a lot of narcotics in Summerland. It was the 60s, you know?”

“The police knew there were a lot of narcotics in Summerland,” said Al. “It was the 60s, you know? Hippieville. I was in a bad point in my life-sometimes you get into stuff and you don’t realise how far backwards you fall.”

Merrick credits jail term with turning his life around. “Prison certainly gave me pause to consider my life and where my life was going, and how far I’d fallen,” he said. “That was a sobering thing, and the salvation message made a lot of sense to me. I accepted the Lord, and that just turned my life right around.”

3. Peter McCabe – the legendary drug smuggler

It’s no secret that surfing and drug culture have intersected pretty heavily over the years.
A lesser known fact is that many high profile surfers in the late seventies were actually big time drug smugglers, moving commercial quantities of drugs across borders.

The reason being, well, how else did you finance a lifestyle of travel and surfing? We couldn’t all be Bunker Spreckels.

Legendary Australian surfer, shaper and early Indonesia pioneer, Peter McCabe, was one of them, eventually going down for smuggling cocaine into the Pacific island of New Caledonia en route to Australia.

He served three years in prison there, the story of which is told in the underground classic surf film, Sea of Darkness (above).

4. Ricky Rasmussen meets a foul end

rick rasmussen surfer headline drugs
Another of the big time pro surfer drug smugglers from the late 70s, Ricky Rasmussen was also one of the most stylish American surfers of the time.

Originally from Maine, and later New York, Rasmussen became the first ever east coast surfer to win the American National Champs. Incredibly he also won the kneeboarding title that same year.
“Rasmussen was shot in the head and killed a week before he was due to be sentence for another drug trafficking charge” 

Rasmussen was also among the first generation of surfers to explore Indonesia, which is where he was first arrested for possessing a kilo of cocaine in Bali.

He somehow got acquitted of that only to be arrested two years later for trying to sell $500 000 worth of heroine to an undercover cop in New York.

A week before he was due to be sentenced for that drug trafficking charge, he was shot in the head and killed while trying to put together another deal in Harlem.

5. The mysterious disappearance of Mike Boyum

Grajagan camp back in 1978. Photo: Encyclopedia of Surfing
Grajagan camp back in 1978. Photo: Encyclopedia of Surfing
Mike Boyum is one of the most mythical figures in the history of surfing, whose disappearance and presumed death at Cloud Nine in the Philippines has never been properly confirmed.

Some believe he’s still hiding out on the run in the jungles of south-east Asia after he stole what is rumoured to be over a million dollars from the Maui mafia to finance his drug smuggling operations.
“Some believe he’s still hiding out in south-east Asia after he stole over a million dollar from the Maui mafia”

Boyum was the mastermind behind much of the drug smuggling that went on in the surfing community in the late 1970s. He was also one of the first to surf the now world famous G-Land aka Grajagan before starting a surf camp there.

He was forced to flee Indonesia, however, after he became the target of numerous drug investigations.

He later did time along with Peter McCabe in New Caledonia over the cocaine bust. A contemporary and close friend of surfers as legendary as Gerry Lopez, Boyum was on of the most important figures in the early period of Indonesian surf travel.

6. Koby Abberton finally gets nicked

Don't mess with Koby. Photo: Rotten Tomatoes
Don’t mess with Koby. Photo: Rotten Tomatoes
A lifetime living on the edge finally caught up with Koby Abberton during a brawl outside a Honolulu nightclub in 2008, when he mistakenly punched an off duty cop in the head four times leaving him with a badly bruised melon. The cop had been trying to break up a fight involving one of Koby’s mates.

He served three days in Oahu’s minimum security prision and was handed a six month good behaviour bond.

It followed his arrest for lying to police two years earlier after his brother Jai shot and killed a hitman named Anthony Hines (Jai was later acquitted of murder).

7. Robbie Page gets busted in Japan

Cheyne Horan and Mark Occhilupo with Page in Japan before the incident went down... Photo:
Cheyne Horan and Mark Occhilupo with Page in Japan before the incident went down… Photo:
Talk about a ‘sliding doors’ moment.
In 1988, a 23 year old Robbie Page won the Pipe Masters. He then went onto cement himself in cheesy folk lore with a birth in the cult-cringe classic Hollywood surf film, North Shore alongside Occy.

“Pagey had completely forgotten about the cardboard blotted with lysergic acid in his wallet…”
But in 1992, while on his way to compete in the Marui Pro, Japan, he was pulled aside by customs officials. It was probably partially due to his neon clothing and frizzed out hair but Page had nothing to hide. He was no drug smuggler.

That was until the customs officials began leafing through his wallet and found a small slice of cardboard blotted with lysergic acid. Pagey had completely forgotten it was in there.

Japanese authorities showed no mercy on the young surfer, sentencing him to 66 days in prison, 30 of which were served in solitary confinement.

“I once asked my mum when I came out of Japanese prison for possession of LSD, I asked her, how come I ended up in there?” recalls Page, “And she said, oh, it’s simple. You lost appreciation for the fundamental values of life.”

8. Sunny Garcia done for fraud

Sunny Garcia, once the best surfer in the world. Photo: Shawn Parkin
Sunny Garcia, the greatest underdog comeback in surf history? Photo: Shawn Parkin
Sunny Garcia was responsible for one of the great underdog world title wins when in 2000 – 14 years after he’d graduated to the Tour – he returned from obscurity (and obesity) to claim the crown.

He would also claim the Hawaiian Triple Crown that year on his way to becoming the first surfer ever to win over a million dollars in contest winnings.

Problem was he failed to declare a whole bunch of it to the tax office and in 2006 was sentenced to three months in federal prison for fraud. He spent another seven months under house arrest.

He would later earn the attention of the police years later for a high profile brawl at Burleigh Heads, Australia in which he sprung to the defence of his son andJeremy Flores after they became embroiled in a stoush with a local surfer.

Sunny was also involved in a tussle with a Brazilian cameraman shortly after who had filmed the altercation. All charges were dropped.

9. Charly Martin wins the award for unluckiest surfer ever

It just wasn't his day... Photo: Moskova Underwear
It just wasn’t his day… Photo: Moskova Underwear
While competing at the Coldwater Classic in Scotland, Martin and and few mates were involved in a brawl at a party,

He returned to the hotel to find one of his mates missing, before going in search of him with a serrated knife as protection. It was then that he was set upon by a mob of 15.

“Charly was charged with carrying a knife in public, effectively ending his days as a paid surfer”
Despite never producing the knife, he returned to his hotel room where police were waiting to question him. They found the knife and charged him with carrying a knife in public, which was enough for his sponsor Nike to tear up his contract, effectively ending his days as a paid surfer.
He was ranked third on the WQS at the time with a World Tour birth very likely.