Courtesy of Darryl Virostko
Courtesy of Darryl Virostko

World famous surfer and local to the Santa Cruz community, Darryl “Flea” Virostko takes recovery to another level with his local, non-profit organization Fleahab.

Started in 2010, Fleahab aims to “provide a sober living environment, created to integrate exercise and a healthy lifestyle into the recovery process for those afflicted with drug or alcohol addiction,” according to the project’s official website . This year, Virostko plans to purchase a new home on the Westside to continue carrying out this mission. First, he has to get enough funds and make the right buy.

Q: What is your short-term goal for Fleahab?
A: Our goal in the next six months is to get into a house. I get emails from people all over the country who want to do Fleahab, but I can’t do it unless we get it going for sure. We’re trying to figure out our next event to give us that push to get us that house.

Q: How are you encouraging kids to ask for help?
A: By speaking and telling my story. I was making twelve grand a month surfing. I was on top of the world. But it got to me. The partying. I didn’t think it was going to get to me, but it slowly crept in. I say to these kids you have to check yourself and know where you’re going in your life and not be scared to talk to your parents about it.

Q: How will the new house contribute to the organization?
A:There would be guidelines like a regular house, to clean up after yourself. I want them to actually do something and not just sit out back smoking cigarettes. I think that the people that come for this, come from far, like New York and Florida–they’re surfers. They’ll want to do sports and get good waves. I’m excited because there are so many possibilities for it.

Q: How do you think Fleahab will affect the community?
A: It’s going to really help people. People will get excited about getting clean and feeling like they used to feel. A lot of times, people used to like to do sports before they got on drugs. Being able to help different people with different backgrounds in sports is going to be cool for Santa Cruz. There’s no sober living environment like this.

Q: Does surfing play a large role in the organization?
A: It’s so nice to get into a wetsuit and be away from land. Surfing is definitely going to be a big part, but whatever someone wants to do, I’m going to be a support to a lot of people. I’m not going to pressure people to go surfing but if they will, that will be great.

Q: How will your past experience help the organization?
A: Just in trying to bring awareness that it’s a common problem. It’s not something that we should be hiding from. I want to help that person to not be scared and to actually ask for help. So many kids around Santa Cruz are scared. They don’t want to get in trouble. So making it more open is really important.

Q: What kind of support have you received from the community?
A: I’ve had so much support from the community. Kids’ parents who know what I’m doing are so stoked because I’m a positive role model for their kids now and it feels good for myself because I can actually help these little kids.

Q: What have you gained from helping people in Fleahab so far?
A: I’ve helped a lot of different people. Seeing the joy and happiness in their face when they actually rode a wave. The energy that you get from other people being excited is like being a kid again. I see myself catching my first wave. It’s so cool to see that. People coming back into life is such a special thing. I’ve always been really passionate about helping people, and if they need help, I’m going to help them. Just seeing progress and people being happy and being able to support people. I get satisfaction from all of that.