Craig Butler speaks to Sunny Garcia about life, depression and suicidal thoughts.
In 2011 when it came out about Sunny and Jeremy Flores beating up that guy in Australia, being an opinionated teenager I messaged Sunny and told him that he is a sham and a bad bad guy who only deserves the worst. We got into a heated exchange and I could sense that I had touched a nerve inside of him and upset the guy. Six years later, after reflecting on my own behaviour I realised no one is perfect, felt bad about our exchange so I messaged him and apologised for starting a ‘keyboard warrior’ fight with him.
He accepted my apology and we got to talking. He opened up and I also opened up to him. I came to the realisation that a lot of what you hear about him in the media is sensationalism at its finest. He told me about his amazing charity work with kids with the Mauli Ola Foundation and his struggles with depression.
As an ex-hater of Sunny Garcia I can now safely say that the guy has become a great gentleman and role model for younger kids. We all have problems in life, some more than others. We just all have different coping mechanisms to dealing with our problems. He may of used the “bad boy” image for years, but when you actually get to know him or like when I was researching for this interview I talked to people who have met him you get a different story.
HOW HAS THE PAST 20 YEARS BEEN FOR YOU?
Being 48 as opposed to 28 you just learn what you like and don’t like so I’ve learned to make training part of my everyday life and I train hard because I hate losing more. But as far as slowing down goes, yeah the last couple of years I’ve slowed down especially after my car accident and hurt my neck and back. I still have problems with my neck so when I start to feel myself go forwards I end up taking a giant leap backwards so that’s been frustrating but I keep working through it. Well travelling as much as I did all I can say is I have lived competing and just learned to evolve and deal with losing halfway around the world and take that anger and try harder in the next event but there were so many times that I did want to give up and throw the towel in but I just loved competing and wanted to be a world champ so I kept going.
YOU’VE HAD SOME HEATED EXCHANGES IN THE PAST. TELL US ABOUT THEM?
I’ve always hated losing and yes I still do. But that’s what drives me even till today I hate losing at anything I do. Judges … what can I say! Most of them are kooks who don’t belong there and I don’t say this out of anger it’s just a fact. When you see them out drinking and partying during a event and you know they are judging you the next day with a hangover and you get a bad call how can anyone not lose the plot? I’m not saying they all do it or they do it all the time but it happens and how can you have respect for them? I think they should get new judges every so often and it has gotten better over the years especially lately. But back in the ’80s and ’90s it was pretty bad.
YOU BECOME WORLD CHAMPION IN 2000…
In 2000 when I finally won a world title. Everything seemed to just fall into place and I started off winning the first two events and just kept doing good in events and the guys chasing me seemed to just fall apart when I had a bad one and couldn’t capitalize on my mistakes. In 2000 the guys to beat were Jake Patterson, Luke Egan and Taj Burrow.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM…
I suffer from depression and probably have for a while but really started noticing it after winning a QS event at Sunset in 2012 I have unfortunately thought about taking my life more than a few times but I kept reminding myself that I have a great life and too many people that love me to leave so I just keep fighting to find my happy place. No one likes to talk about depression but for sure guys on tour suffer from it and I feel it’s good to talk about but people need to know they are not alone and more people suffer from it than they know.
Still being alive and living the dream everyday is the greatest moment of my life lol. I’ve had so many great moments that I think about waking up everyday and it is great. I think my days of competing have unfortunately come to an end but I’ll still compete in specialty events and have fun but the kids nowadays are just incredible and it’s time to sit back and watch events and go on surf trips and have fun chasing all the waves I never got to surf while on tour. I would love the chance to go to Ireland. My grandfather on my moms side is half Irish and I’ve never been to Ireland but would absolutely love to make it there one day.
I also try and do my best for charity. The Mauli Ola foundation basically takes kids who are sick out surfing so they can have fun and put a smile on their faces. It’s a good group of people using surfing as a natural treatment for sick kids. I am happy to say that I have been a part of the foundation.
YOU SPENT THREE MONTH’S IN PRISON. TELL US ABOUT IT…
Jail was just some time to get to know myself because I had lost all my sponsors and my wife served me divorce papers the night before I went in so I completely hit rock bottom. So I took that time and just trained everyday and made the most of it and came out stronger than ever. I had some good friends in jail and they kept me busy and training everyday in there and I just kept it up when I got out.
WHEN I ANNOUNCED THAT I WOULD BE INTERVIEWING YOU I GOT SOME BACKLASH OFF OF SOME OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY WHO FOLLOW MY PAGE. WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
As always it only takes one person to say a bad thing about me and then the story grows. But I don’t have any problems with the LGBT community or never had and some of my best friends are gay as well as some family members, so no I’m not homophobic lol. The only thing that I’m concerned with is to do what makes you happy and as long as it’s not hurting someone you’re all good. If I have hurt people in the past I hope they can forgive me because I was once young and stupid and it’s not a excuse just part of me becoming who I am today and I continue to grow and try to become a better person.