Lessons From A 47-Year-Old Who Surfed Bigger Waves, Did Bigger Airs And Partied Harder Than You
OG Cruiser, Darryl "Flea" Virostko's impact on Santa Cruz is far greater than surfing. Tap in for part four of O'Neill's O'Riginals series.
This is not a story of addiction and redemption.
This is a story of one of Santa Cruz’s most influential personalities, Darryl “Flea” Virostko, and the impact he, and his generation - Barney, Ratboy, and before them, the "Godfather" Vince Collier - have left on the Santa Cruz community.
Earlier this year, O'Neill tapped us to produced the next episode of their O'Riginals series. The subject was Flea, and initially, that was a little daunting. I'd known of Flea from my formative surfing years, and like most kids who grew up surfing in California in the 90s and noughties, had images of Flea plucked from the centerfolds of SURFER pushing his board over the ledge at Mavericks, or punting with leopard spotted hair at Steamer Lane pinned to my garage or bedroom wall. Being this was a Santa Cruz project, we called up local filmmaker and tube handy gentleman, Kyle Buthman, to make the short documentary.
Flea and his crew helped define what it means to be a well-rounded surfer. And, Santa Cruz is a place that breeds just that.
It's the playful waves at the Hook and Pleasure Point, the high-performance Mecca of The Lane, death pits at Mavs, various not-to-be-named slabs, beachies and wedges north of town, and open exposure to swell, that have sharpened the teeth of Santa Cruz's finest.
But as Flea gravely reminiscences on the 90s and early 2000s in Santa Cruz, it was "scary times.” Santa Cruz remains one of the more localized “Surf Cities” in California. Although, today, you’re more likely to get hit in the face by an ice plant hucked from the Westside’s cliffs than jumped by several mad-eyed rippers who'd rather kick your head in than share a lineup.
“There’s no way you can do that sort of thing nowadays,” says Flea reminiscing on the bronzed age of localism.
For better or worse, depending on who you’re speaking with, Santa Cruz (like any blue-collar beach town) has changed a lot in the last twenty years. And with it, so has Flea — who in 2008 checked into rehab at The Beacon House in Monterey after meth took hold of him.
Today, he lives life as a clean family man, serving as a role model for the Santa Cruz youth, making the most out of every chance he gets to surf while running a sober living program with an emphasis on returning to the ocean, aptly named Fleahab.
We tapped local aerial savant, Noah “Waggy” Wegrich, and budding Mavericks charger, Alo Slebir, to speak on the Flea of today and the impact both his aerial and big wave surfing left on them growing up in Santa Cruz.
This is a story of a Santa Cruz OG. This is a story of then and now.