Every sport scene has its fair share of scandal – surfing is no different. From gender changes to solitary confinement, here are 8 scandals that shook the world of surfing.
Jeremy Flores threatens ASP judges with physical assault
The very latest scandal in surfing happened only last week in the J-Bay Open held in South Africa.
French surfer Jeremy Flores, angered by what he perceived to be bias judging in his heat against Sebastian Zietz, stormed the judges panel and in a five minute verbal tirade threatened the head judge with physical assault.
“It was the most violent of dummy spit since Victor Ribas thrEw a handful of coral rocks at the panel in 2000”
It was the most violent of dummy spits since Brazilian Victor Ribas threw a handful of coral rocks at the panel in the Maldives in 2000.
Despite a subsequent apology, both written and verbal, Flores was fined and suspended by the governing body’s disciplinary committee and will now miss the next two events in the US and Tahiti.
Of course this isn’t the first scandal Flores had been involved in….
Sunny Garcia and Jeremy Flores beat up local surfer
Hawaiian hardman Sunny Garcia was freesurfing Burleigh Heads next to the Breaka Surf Competition in 2010 when his 16-year-old son was involved in an altercation with a local surfer.
Both Sunny and his good friend Flores rushed to the aid of the teenager and the two men metered out some brutal old fashioned violence to the Australian.
Unfortunately for the pro surfers, there was a crowd of 5,000 watching the event, one of whom filmed the altercation which later made the national news.
Garcia then took further offence at the video evidence and physically assaulted the filmer.
The ASP responded by disqualifying Flores from the contest and banning Garcia from the next 4-star WQS event.
Garcia also had previously chased a fellow competitor up the beach after a heat loss at Pipe and been jailed for tax evasion.
Pro surfer Peter Drouyn has sex change
In 2012, surfer Westerly Windina appeared at Surfing Australia’s 50th Anniversary Dinner dressed as Marilyn Monroe.
“In a previous life, Windina was Peter Drouyn, one of Australia’s most influential surfers”
For in a previous life Windina was Peter Drouyn, one of Australia’s most influential surfers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Australian champion in 1970 and the man credited to inventing the man-on-man competition format that is still used today.
It caused a fair degree of surprise and scandal on the night, the audience being made up of three generations of great Australian surfers.
After a full sex change operation, Westerly Windina sees Drouyn as a completely different person. “Peter was a different person, from a different time,” she said in a documentary about her life. “But what he did for surfing, no one can ever take away.”
Wendy Botha poses nude for Playboy
While surfing and sex had been linked since the very start, it was still considered a major scandal when in 1992 the four time World Champion Wendy Botha appeared on both the cover and centrespread of Australian Playboy.
“The girls on the tour were a little shocked. The guys all think it’s unreal.”
The South African said afterwards: “The girls on the tour were a little shocked. The guys all think it’s unreal.” She was right and it was the first time the Australian edition of the magazine had ever sold out.
In fact for a while in late 1992, many teenage surfers (me included) spent a lot of time checking out Wendy’s awesome backside.
In hindsight, she was ahead of her time as more recently Stephanie Gilmore, Maya Gabeira, Coco and Kelly Slater have all posed and even surfed nude for Sports Illustrated.
Koby Abberton is charged with perverting the course of justice
In 2005 Koby Abberton was one of surfing’s highest-profile and highest-paid stars.
Few surfers had carved a successful career out of charging big waves like Abberton. He traveled the world non-stop, had numerous sponsors and scored loads of covers in magazines all over the planet.
Then in 2006 he was charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to his brother Jai being arrested for murder.
Both cases made the front page in Australia with Jai later admitting to killing the notorious hitman Anthony Hines, but in self defence. After 12 months, both men were acquitted on all charges.
Despite the acquittal, Abberton lost most of his major sponsors and couldn’t travel as part of the original bail conditions. His surfing career never really recovered.
Rob Page gets busted for drugs in Japan
In 1992 Robbie Page spent a total of 66 days in a Japanese prison after customs officials found a single tab of acid in his wallet.
“Of those 66 days in jail, 30 of them were spent in solitary confinement.”
Page was an Australian professional surfer and Pipeline Master known for his love of big waves and good times. Of those 66 days in jail, 30 of them were spent in solitary confinement.
He later said, “I once asked my mum when I came out of Japanese prison for possession of LSD, how come I ended up in there? And she said: ‘Oh, it’s simple. You lost appreciation for the fundamental values of life’.”
Rabbit Bartholomew is put under house arrest in Hawaii
After a successful and high profile winter in Hawaii in 1975, Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew arrived the next year ready in his own words to “Bust Down the Door.”
Unfortunately for Rabbit, the local Hawaiians were upset at the upstart Australian’s brash bravado and decided to cut him back down to size.
He received numerous death threats and was forced to spend the winter under siege at Turtle Bay, playing tennis instead of surfing the huge waves.
Eventually legendary Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau brokered a peace deal where he could only surf his heats, as well as being banished from the North Shore of Oahu for three years.
Rabbit survived to go on to become World Champion in 1978 but said later the whole saga, “cut me in half as a man.”
Kelly Slater’s 11th World title given and then taken away
After beating Dan Ross in Round 3 of the Rip Curl Search event in San Francisco in 2011, Kelly Slater was hauled in front of the cameras and awarded his 11th world title.
“I’m not joking, I have not won the world title yet!”
However, a few hours later the ASP conceded that because of errors in its math, Kelly Slater has not in fact clinched the ASP world title.
The ironic thing is that it was Kelly himself who brought the mistake to the attention of the governing body.
“I’m not joking,” tweeted Slater. “I have not won the world title yet. I still have to win another heat! Give those shirts and hats back!” After winning his next heat the following day, Slater was given the trophy, this time for keeps.