Famed Santa Cruz surfer Anthony Ruffo was sentenced to jail today after pleading no contest to selling methamphetamine. In 2010, Ruffo was arrested for possession of drugs for sale, being under the influence of drugs, and being a felon in possession of a stun gun. Today, Judge Paul Marigonda sentenced Ruffo to two years in state prison, two years in a sheriff’s custody program, and one year of county probation supervision.
In accordance with California's “half-time” state sentencing rules, which stem from overcrowding in state prisons, Ruffo will likely spend a single year in County Jail. Ruffo also held a previous conviction for selling meth in 2005.
Following the decision, Ruffo was immediately placed in handcuffs and escorted to County Jail. The sentencing reportedly came as a surprise to Ruffo and his attorney, Ben Rice, who believed that it would be delayed a few weeks.
In the year since his 2010 arrest, Ruffo has reportedly made great strides to come clean and has been working with at-risk youth in the Santa Cruz community. His efforts and personal story have been the subject of an ongoing documentary film and has drawn the attention of ABC News and The New York Times.
“I think justice would be better served if he could go out and keep doing the great work he’s been doing in this community, but the judge didn’t see it that way," said Rice to ESPN. "He’s made a big impact in this community over the last year, and it’s regrettable he won’t be able to continue that for awhile. He’d turned over a new leaf and was really trying to make a difference.”
In attendence at the sentencing were famed Santa Cruz surfers Darryl "Flea" Virostko, Adam Replogle, and Ken "Skindog" Collins.
“He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but the sad part is he went down the wrong path,” explained Collins to ESPN. “In a sense it’s closure, and he’s going to get a chance to go in and pay his debt to society. He’ll come through this a better man, but this was something that kind of had to happen for everybody’s sake. He knew it.”
Problems involving methamphetamine within pockets of the Santa Cruz surf scene are not new and have been covered by the media in the past.
In October of last year, a lengthy piece chronicling Ruffo's downward slide from professional surfer to drug dealer was published in The New York Times. The story detailed how Ruffo turned to dealing drugs for the Norteños gang after his career in surfing began to wane.
"That was the beginning of a dangerous territory," he said to the Times, "because I'm not a gangster but I was selling for gangs."
Despite his rough history with substance abuse and drug dealing, Ruffo's place in the pantheon of Santa Cruz surfers is unquestionable. In 1985, he claimed the win at the inaugural Coldwater Classic event. Most recently, at 48 years old, he won a pro/am event earlier this month.