Garcia hopes for Sunny days ahead, outtakes

“I visit a lot of hospitals. As much as I like to complain about the depression and how bad my life seems at times, nothing will change your life, or your mind, more than walking in and seeing kids who basically don’t have long to live, sitting there smiling. And laughing. And then there you are thinking how bad your life is and you have this kid who doesn’t have any time and is not even worried about it. That will put you right in your place. They don’t take anything for granted. Five minutes from now, they’re not concerned with five minutes from now. All they’re concerned with is what’s going on right now. It will change your perspective on life.” –Sunny Garcia

Last December I read a story by Pete Thomas of reporting that Sunny Garcia had revealed he was suffering from depression on his Instagram account.

I found it surprising that A) Sunny Garcia, one of the greatest surfers of all-time, had anything to be less than stoked about, and B) he would reach out in such a public manner to get help.

We talked a couple of months later at his induction into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. Garcia was very forthcoming and upfront. He agreed to a future interview to talk more in depth about his illness, and other issues.

The more we talked and the more I learned in talking with others, the more I was convinced that Garcia is extremely sincere about his desire to help young people (not just young surfers). He speaks with his actions.

And, now that he just dabbles in a few pro surfing events at age 45, Garcia has found a new outlet for his competitive fire: endurance sports.

He completed the Honolulu Marathon last year (with no training, which he does NOT recommend) and is entered in Saturday’s Ironman Championship on the Big Island.

Here’s my column on Sunny Garcia. If you don’t subscribe, you can still watch parts of our interview (video by Kim Yuen).

Here are some quotes that didn’t make it into the column or video:

Sunny Garcia, on making the transformation from world class athlete to retirement:
“I’m still dabbling in professional surfing. I pretty much keep busy. I’m doing triathlons now. Right now I’m just training for the Ironman.

On becoming an elder statesman, in surfing and otherwise:
“It’s easier for people to talk to someone about issues they’ve lived through. I’ve lived through a lot of different issues. Anger. Being a young professional athlete making a lot of money. Dealing with drugs and still trying to compete was a huge issue for me. Other issues. We were talking about Mauna Kea, do we really need another telescope? It all concerns me when we talk about Hawaii. Not just for the Hawaiians, but for all the people who live in Hawaii. A lot of issues need to be addressed. I think I can be a voice that will be heard.”

On BJ Penn, a kindred soul in some ways who recently retired from MMA competition:
“I was talking to BJ a few weeks ago. I called him up to see what he’s doing. going from training and being in events. Being one of the best in your sport and going to retirement is a huge change. You miss hanging out with the boys competing. All of a sudden you’re at home watching TV, watching others do what you did all your life.”

On his dirt bike hobby:
“Every year we do this one ride. Start at Tecate and ride to Cabo San Lucas. This year we did it in seven days, 1700 miles. It’s a lot of miles, a lot of days, you’re sore. It’s about being with the guys and having fun.
“Cameron Steele, a friend of mine, an ESPN commentator, he puts it together. Most of the guys are all friends, we add on a few each year. If some of the guys can’t show up, others send in their resume. you pretty much gotta get someone to vouch for you.
“I’m more afraid to wipe out on a bike. I know I can hold my breath in a wave. I lost a friend on a ride, he passed away four years ago. The dangers are real riding motocross. I feel a lot more safe surfing because I’ve done it all my life and I know I can hold my breath.”

On the death of Andy Irons:
“I came from a huge family, so I know what loss is. Cousins, grandparents, a step-sister to cancer. Every loss in your life is a lesson. Andy was like a brother to me. Especially at the time, he was so young. And the guy carried the flag for Hawaii so beautifully. As beautiful as Andy was he liked to party and ultimately that cost him his life. It did alter my life. I don’t party at all now. Everything is training, training, training. It was not all Andy’s doing. Getting older, smarter. I’m a grandfather now. I want to live life. When I was younger, I was like, ‘Ah if I die young that’s ok.’ That changes when you get older.”

On working out:
“When I get up in the morning and train my day goes by so much better. Happier, more energy. It truly makes your life much better. Sometimes two workouts a day, sometimes three. If I can fit in a run and a long bike ride in the morning. But if I only do the bike in morning I’ll run in the evening, or vice versa.

On training and competitive surfing:
“At 27 I started dieting and training and at 30 I won the world title. When I was young I said when I’m old I’m gonna be big and fat and longboard and catch all the waves I want. But living a healthy lifestyle is so much better.”

On kids:
“They’re brutally honest. I love kids. That’s the best part. They don’t have a filter.”

On depression among athletes:
“If you were to ask me that a couple of months ago I’d say I have no idea. After my post, I learned that quite a bit of athletes suffer from depression. I don’t know all the reasons why.”

On dealing with highs and lows as a world class surfer:
“I think that has a lot to do with it. In our profession you’re doing good you’re so important to everyone in our profession. Have a couple bad events, you’re not important. Not getting calls back, sponsors say ‘our budget is small.”

On concussions:
“We smash our heads on the water a lot, on the boards, it happens. I know I’ve suffered several concussions from surfing. But never been studied.”

On being a bridge between the surfers and the tour:
“For me it’s a good position because I know for a fact that the surfers trust me. I feel confident we can meet halfway. But not everyone’s always going to be happy with the decisions.”

Randy Rarick on Garcia’s competitive fire and transition from championship competitor:
“I have a picture of Sunny when he was 13 at the Gotcha Pro. A skinny little punk, but that’s why he succeeded, that edge. He reached the pinnacle and then there was a downside, and that’s when depression set in. His character drove him to succeed, and now he’s mature to the point where he’s giving.” 
“He had a great drive to succeed. but the demons caught up with him. Now, he’s really great. As the Youth Development Officer, it gives him a new light and he can take his expertise and give something back.”


  1. Herbert Morioka October 11, 2015 9:43 am

    Norm Chow should be fired today and we can salvage the rest of the season. Here is my plan. Move up one of the assistant coaches to head coach and the next assistant to offensive coordinator and so on without any cost. Give the seniors a chance to play and use the rest of the underclass men in real live games which will serve as a training ground for the next 2016 foot ball season. Right now the football team is going deeper into the hole and the football players are showing their frustration. Any change in the coaching staff will be an improvemrent.

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