6 Surfing Lawsuits We Decided To Unearth
Yesteryear’s dirty laundry.
Tomo’s dad may have dodged a jail sentence in the recent case stemming from his beating of former professional surfer, Jodie Cooper, but make no mistake- 300 hours of community service is nothing to laugh at. It’s a massive time commitment and, if Australia’s legal system is similar to the US (I don’t know the extent to which it is), there’s always the chance that he could fuck it all up, not finish in time, and end up in the clink anyway.
Not that it really matters. Whatever happens to Thomson, surfers around the world will continue to act like assholes and, every once in a while, one will end up in court over it.
Which is how this piece originated. It was planned to be about incidents in which ‘localism’ landed someone in legal hot water. Which has happened more than once and provides more than enough meat to flesh out a solid little piece.
But too much weird legal shit has gone down in the surf world to limit myself to only ‘localism.’ So, instead, here are some fun instances in which surfing has dipped its toes into the world of lawsuits and criminal charges.
You can’t ignore the Bay Boy cluster fuck that gripped the world’s attention a few years back. Trust fund dorks against the world! It became a slow news day item for media around the globe, led to undercover investigative reports, protests, and lawsuits, some of which continue to play out in the California court system.
There have been setbacks for those wishing to surf a mushy right handers that only breaks once a year but is still zealously guarded by a group of men that drive to their parents house when the swell angle is right. While the federal class action suit against the Bay Boys was denied certification in 2017 (https://stabmag.com/news/legal-efforts-to-opening-lunada-bay-face-setbacks/ ), other cases, in state court, continue to slowly wind their way through the justice system.
It wasn’t the first time Lunada surfers found themselves on the end of judicial punishment. In 1996 PV surfer, Peter McCullom paid $15k to settle a case brought by Geoff Haggins, after which things went right back to business as usual on the hill.
In the more recent instance, whatever the end result, legally, it’s a case that exemplifies the notion that, “you can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.”
The Bay Boys have suffered legal fees, public exposure, and had their cool little clubhouse torn down.
Along the way, there’s been related weirdness.
In 2017 a man sued Bay Boy, Michael Papayans, and his mother, Jennifer, over a parking lot beating following a 2015 Dodgers game. Papayans was handed a 14-day sentence, ordered to pay $109k in restitution, attend anger management classes, and perform 80 hours of community service as punishment.
Papayans was also arrested in 2016 for a Key West, Florida bar brawl he joined alongside Backstreet Boy, Nick Carter.
Furthermore, the youngest member of the Ferrara clan, four of whom were named plaintiffs in the Lunada suit, found himself charged with hate crimes in 2016, after participating in the assault of a Palos Verdes Estates liquor store owner.
Bad behavior in Ventura County
Two incidents in Ventura County landed surfers behind bars. The first, which occurred in 1995, began with a parking lot fight at Port Hueneme Beach.
“Michael Ortega’s legal troubles began in the Port Hueneme Beach parking lot about 9 a.m. Sept. 30, 1995, when he challenged Mark Aaron, a 41-year-old Santa Monica high school teacher and novice surfer.
“As Aaron tugged on his wetsuit, Ortega demanded to know where he was from and then, in so many words, told him he could not surf at Port Hueneme.
“’I had been angry with my girlfriend and I was talking trash to this guy,’ Ortega said.
“When Aaron refused to retreat, authorities said, Ortega tackled him and in the process cracked one of Aaron’s ribs with his head. The two wrestled on the ground, until a small crowd gathered and Aaron and his friend, fearing an escalation of violence, decided to leave.
“Ortega pleaded no contest to battery and was initially sentenced last May to five days in jail and three years’ probation.”
One condition of Ortega’s probation was that he was no longer allowed to surf at Port Hueneme Beach. However, two days after sentencing a Port Hueneme police officer spotted Ortega leaving the water, resulting in a six month jail stint.
“It’s not worth it,” Ortega said, issuing a message to other territorial surfers. “I’m spending six months in jail for trying to protect a beach. If you really love surfing, just ignore those other guys.”
Five years later Oxnard resident, Carter Slade, would find himself looking down the barrel of a nine month sentence over a fight at nearby Silver Strand Beach.
From the LA Times:
The trouble started when a 19-year-old Port Hueneme surfer dropped in on a wave Slade claimed.
Slade, who lives in the Silver Strand neighborhood, responded by paddling up to the teenager, yanking the intruder’s board leash and spearing the teenager in the face with the tip of his own surfboard, Jenson said.
A second surfer, a 35-year-old man who also lives at Silver Strand, witnessed the assault, paddled over to help the injured teenager and encouraged him to report the incident to police, Jenson said.
“The defendant threatened him and said, ‘Watch your back. You’re next,’ ” she said.
Two days later, Slade identified the man to a surfing buddy, Jason Brouchard, who punched him, rupturing his eardrum, Jenson said. Brouchard pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and witness intimidation.
Slade was charged with two felony counts. He denied the charges and said he had been defending himself. Last month, a jury disagreed and convicted him on both counts, Jenson said.
A Literal Paddle Battle
Paul Taylor Konen, a stand up paddler from Ocean Beach, caught a five year sentence after bashing Kevin Eslinger with a carbon fiber paddle during an argument at Sunset Cliffs.
“Eslinger testified at trial that he and his wife, Janae Kelley-Eslinger, went surfing the morning of June 26 at a popular Sunset Cliffs spot called The Boil, near Ladera Street. He said a paddleboarder, later identified as Konen, blocked his way, then got into his wife’s way.
“The two men had words, then Konen started paddling away. Eslinger said he wanted to continue scolding Konen for his behavior, so he went after him, lying flat on his surfboard and paddling with his hands. Then, he said, the paddleboard cut across his path near his head. He put out his hands, then blacked out.”
Channel Islands Fin Gash
In 2011 California, Tom Gregg, sued Channel Islands and FCS over the damage done to his leg by a fin while surfing in France. Gregg alleged that, because surfboards fins are sharp, they are unsafe to use.
As of 2012 Channel Islands was demanding a jury trial to hash out the issue.
There’s no further information available regarding the suit online, leading one to believe it was likely dropped.
Volcom Sues Jay Z
In 2011 Volcom took Beyonce’s husband to court over his brand, Roc Nation’s, use of a diamond logo in promotional materials.
According to Veeco’s trademark infringement lawsuit, “While Roc Nation appears to have initially used the diamond only in combination with the words ‘Roc Nation’ it is now using the diamond log on its own, causing a likelihood of confusion among consumers.”
There is no public information available regarding settlement, but a quick search indicates that Roc Nation no longer uses the logo.
Going Down on Cardi B
RVCA team manager, Michael Brophy, was not happy when he learned that he’d been photoshopped onto the cover of Cardi B’s album, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1. His easily recognized back tattoo, edited to make it appear that he was performing cunnilingus on the female performer, led to a $5 million dollar lawsuit.
Complicating matters somewhat, it seems that an Instagram guy, @the6atsix, was used as the model in the photo, with Brophy’s tattoos later added.
“Whoever this f***in bum ass “Kevin Brophy” is needs to find another way to finesse food for his kids. Fuckin lame ass n***a. @iamcardib iunno if this shit is real but it’s all over the fuckin internet right now,” @the6atsix wrote on Instagram.
The case remains ongoing.
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