Stab Magazine | Sunny garcia

Sunny garcia

Two years ago he was overweight, heartbroken and heading for the slammer. Now he’s back in shape, married and shaking up the WQS.  Stab flew to California to find Sunny Garcia in the middle of an unlikely comeback. The night before he was due to start a three-month stretch for tax evasion, on January 11 […]

style // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Two years ago he was overweight,
heartbroken and heading for the slammer.

Now he’s back in shape, married and shaking
up the WQS.  Stab flew to California to find Sunny Garcia in the
middle of an unlikely comeback.

The night before he was due to start a three-month stretch for tax evasion, on January 11 2007, Sunny Garcia got a call from his wife Raina, suggesting they go out to dinner. The couple had already separated, and had even discussed the prospect of divorce, but Sunny still hoped they could work things out. Sunny drove the 200 kays from Newport, where he was living, to her place in San Diego. On the way out to dinner, Raina said she wanted to stop at an office to pick something up, and asked Sunny to accompany her. He did. It was a lawyer’s office. Sunny was served with divorce papers.

Sunny, already spun out about going to prison, initially rolled with it.Then the reality hit him. He exchanged a few heated words with Raina, jumped in his car and started driving back to Newport. Raina called him back to San Diego, and they spent the night at her place, having one of those long sleepless nights discussing a relationship that was already doomed. Raina had originally said she would drive him to prison, but changed her mind. So at 4am, Sunny called an old friend, Garth Tarlow, asking for a ride to prison. He had to be there by mid morning, and the prison was 300 kays away in a desert on the other side of Los Angeles.

“He was broken that day, man,” Garth says. “His spirit was hammered.”

Sunny was fatalistic about Raina. “He knew shit had gone down between them, and what he got he might have had coming,” Garth recalls. Sunny’s main focus was getting the sentence behind him and starting over again, which meant getting back on tour in 2008 (he was at the time a shoe-in for a wildcard).

They pulled up at the prison. It was mid winter,one of the coldest days of the year, and there was ice on the ground. Garth says Sunny was both angry and apprehensive. “He seemed like he was ready to do his time but not ready to be fucked with either. His look was not afraid of prison, it was pissed that his life was being used as an example for not fucking with the Internal Revenue Service. He was also thinking that one slip-up or scrap on the prison yard could easily get his sentence extended.”

Sunny simply recalls his state as “fucking shattered”.

The prison was minimum security, but thanks to a bureaucratic technicality, Sunny spent his entire first week in a single cell four metres long and less than three metres wide. He did push-ups, punched the walls, got mad and thought he might lose his mind. He kept asking himself, “Why am I here?”

On the third day, the guards asked him if he would like to have a walk in the exercise yard. “Fuck yeah,” he said, thinking he’d finally get to talk to some other inmates. When the guards ushered him to the yard, it was six in the morning, and there were only four other prisoners out: a couple of Mexicans huddling together and two other inmates running in circles to keep the cold off. Sunny had nothing but a cotton jumpsuit, flimsy prison-issue undies, old socks and kung fu shoes. He asked to go back to his cell instead, but the guards said he had to stay. He joined the other two running in circles.

The guards gave him a thin plastic spray jacket, which was still no match for the pre-dawn chill. “I’ve never been so cold in my life,” he says. The date was January 14. His 37th birthday.
When he was eventually released into the normal prison, he immediately fell in with the other Hawaiians. There were 24 of them (from 600 inmates), and Sunny knew most of them, including Johnny Johnson, a roommate of his from 2000, nearing the end of a six-year term for a drug bust. “They were the gnarliest guys in that prison,” Sunny says.

The Hawaiians weren’t impressed with Sunny’s shape. Throughout 2006, knowing this down-time was imminent, he had let himself go, ballooning out to 109 kilos (he stands only 177 centimetres).Whenever Sunny wasn’t working (his job was to keep the yard in front of the prison office neat), one of the Hawaiians would stop by and ask him what he was doing. “Ah, nothing,” Sunny would reply at first, to which he’d be told: “OK, then put on your shoes, we’re going for a run.”

The prison had a few exercise options – baseball and soccer fields, a racquetball court – but it was the running track that featured highest on the Garcia regime. Sunny wound up running 20 kays a day, as well as doing sit-ups, chin-ups, push-ups and dips.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

“Airlines Hate Me:” Bad Boy RyRy’s Guide To Surf Travel

Want to get pampered at the pointy end of the plane for free?

Aug 17, 2022

Yes And Welcome Back: The First Day Of Female CT Competition At Teahupo’o Since Melanie Redman-Carr Was Taking Scalps In ’06

Carissa Moore is now two heats away from her 6th World Title, btw.

Aug 17, 2022


What Happens When You Borrow A Pro’s Board?

Joyride: The Shrizz from PANDA surfboards.

Aug 16, 2022


Mick Fanning Samples California’s Finest Local Produce

Mayhem at Lowers.

Aug 16, 2022

Mountains Died So You Could Surf

The value of sand.

Aug 15, 2022


UPDATE: People Are Still Surfing ‘La Jetee’ in Reunion Island

Returning to the best & sharkiest air wave in the world, as seen in Mod…

Aug 14, 2022

These Are Your Favorite (Female) Surfers

What the Stab reader survey teaches us about taste.

Aug 14, 2022


Kelly and Local Gal to Win Teahupo’o?

Local insights and a firing forecast.

Aug 13, 2022

These Are Your Favorite (Male) Surfers

Insights from the 2022 Stab Reader survey.

Aug 13, 2022


Fear And Loathing in Mainland Mex

Parker Coffin, Harry Roach, and the Roark crew embark on an authentic Oaxacan (surf) trip.

Aug 13, 2022

Tahiti Preview: The End Of The Road For 72% Of The CT

And hello there, blob of swell.

Aug 12, 2022


While Everyone Flocked To Tahiti, Kelly Stayed in Jbay

...And proceeded to rip the hell out of it on a "borrowed" 5-finned Tomo.

Aug 11, 2022


Can A GQ Cover Boy Take Out Teahupo’o?

Kauli Vaast is your incredibly handsome Tahiti trials winner.

Aug 11, 2022

Watch: Ramble On With Caity Simmers 

An action-rich tour behind the scenes of her triumphant first voyage to Oz.

Aug 11, 2022

PSA: Surf Filmers Not Welcome In Nicaragua

Cameras and drones are being seized on arrival, Stab spoke with two recent visitors.

Aug 11, 2022

Inside The Alternative Surfboard Marketing Machine 

Two of the biz's best — Matt Parker and Blake Peters — spill many beans.

Aug 10, 2022

The Tragic Parallels Between The Murder Of Ricardo Dos Santos & 8x World Jiu Jitsu Champion Leandro Lo

Two Brazilian sporting icons killed brazenly by off-duty police officers.

Aug 9, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: In The Belly Of The Beast

Finger flips, shaping with Zion Wright, slurpees, Hawaiian takeovers, and the king of Surfline rewinds.

Aug 8, 2022