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Why Mavericks Surfer Darryl 'Flea' Virostko is the World's Best Athlete

Dec 11, 2007
At least he gets my vote. The inside 'skinny' is that Santa Cruz' Darryl Virostko or Flea is about five six and weighs about 155 pounds. Flea is one of the best surfers worldwide although he is not known for his fancy points in judged competitions. Flea is best known for riding the really big ones.

Actually Flea spends most of his time just waiting. Without the wave, Flea cannot do what he does. So Flea waits and waits for that rogue wave on the best wave set on the best Pacific storm. Flea may have to wait years. You see, Flea surfs the largest waves in the world.

For those of you that don't know the Pacific Ocean, let me tell you about the Pacific Ocean. First off, it's not the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. Those bodies of water don't have waves, they have ripples. For a non-surfer standing on the beach, a two and half foot Pacific wave in the dead calm of summer can knock one flat. It's happened to me.

Flea goes after waves that are a bit bigger. Up the coast from Santa Cruz and down the coast from San Francisco, are the Mavericks. The Mavericks are officially located in Half Moon Bay but amongst California surfers it's simply known as the Mavericks.

Because of the shallow water just off the beach and because of the way the Mavericks catch the wave patterns as they roll across the Pacific, Mavericks waves are known as the biggest waves in North America. Actually in any given year Mavericks waves are among the biggest in the world.

Not every year is a good year for waves. This year for some reason has been particularly good, if you consider monster waves good. The season has just begun and there have been reports of faces up to 70 feet tall. That is seven stories tall.

The problem is the waves break with such force they will take a surfer down to the bottom and keep them down. The next wave that rolls over does the same. Sometimes a surfer may be under for a minute or two...meaning that if they did not get a good breath of air before going under, it's curtains. And in these waves, surfers do die. Expert surfers die.

Some claim that Flea is better because his center of gravity is closer to the board and balance is the key to riding the really big ones. The face, or tall part of the wave that crashes, is a mountain of water that appears to go almost straight down. One of the keys to a successful ride is going from the crest down the face which could be drop of 20 feet, part of which is a free fall.

Now remember, that's a ten to twenty foot drop balancing on an unstrapped board. Think of it. The waves are so powerful one of the dangers is going face down in the drink and getting knocked out. Another is getting caught in the kelp on the bottom. Or wiping out and getting hit in the head by your own board.

The acrobatics of mounting the wave is the crucial first step and it is here that Flea excels. He can free fall, bend over, contort his body and do what it takes to get down the face and not wipe out.

Surfers have a cord tied to their ankle that keeps them from losing their board. When they go under, the board stays on the surface and they can pull on chord and go back up. Usually. With the monster waves the danger is the wave can push a surfer down and keep him down so the rescue Jet Ski may in fact pull up an unconscious surfer by his cord.

Maybe it's because Flea is fearless. Or maybe it's because he's good. Or maybe it's because he's always in shape and ready to go. And maybe it's the acrobatics as he freefalls that is his trick. Or maybe it's his ability to hold his breath and not panic when the big one takes him under.

Or maybe it's because he laughs when others worry. Or he does it for fun and not as a job. Or he does not overanalyze it since analysis would inhibit his ability to react in nanosecond time.

Because everything changes when a wave is over 40 feet high. Nothing can stop or control it. In twenty feet of water the churn goes all the way to the bottom. There is no escaping it; only enduring it. And hopefully that last gasp breath of air before going under.

Sometimes there's a bit of fog and often a strong wind. As the sets roll in the swells hit the shallow areas and the wave face lifts right up out of the ocean. Even at a distance you cannot believe just how big a wave can be and not even imagine what it's like to ride a big one.

And when it does come to riding the really big ones, no one in the world rides them better than Flea.
About the Author
Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting in Santa Cruz, California. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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