Sunny Garcia’s Last Days in Prison

posted by / News / April 9, 2007

On Tuesday, April 10, former world champ Sunny Garcia will officially be done with his three-month stint at a minimum security prison camp. He’ll then go on seven months house arrest in Newport, clearing his tax evasion issues for good and working on his next big move. Shortly before his release, SURFING made the four-hour trek to the cold, gray compound known as the Taft Correctional Institution and paid our favorite power surfer a visit. What we saw behind the double barb-wire fence and prison-issue khakis was not a defiant convict flipping the middle finger, but a relaxed, rejuvenated champion excited to make his mark once again.


SURFING MAGAZINE: Was your stay here what you’d thought it’d be?
SUNNY GARCIA: My only complaint really is right when I got here. They put me in the hole cause my paperwork wasn’t in order. Had to spend eight days in this 8 by 12 cell, freezing my ass off. It was 19 degrees outside and I was just in this orange jumpsuit. It was hell. But then when they finally moved me to the camp, I met a bunch of Hawaiians, about 20 of ’em, and we’d just hang every day. Marvin Foster’s cousin is here and a couple of other guys I knew from the Westside. It’s been cool.

What’s the routine like?
I get up at 4 in the morning. Sit in the shower for about a half hour cause there’s nothing else to do. I’ll wash clothes, then about 5:30 I’ll go into the TV room and watch the news. At 6:30 they let us out for breakfast. Eat breakfast, then go out and run or walk for another two miles. I come back, read a book. Then they let us out at 11:00 for lunch. Eat lunch. 12:30 – 2:30 work out. And then, at 3:00 they have mail call. That’s the big highlight of the day. Waiting for mail. I’ve been getting a lot from my family and friends, and have been getting a lot of fan mail. I got a lot of people giving me support, which is cool. You never realize how you touch people. It meant a lot. My fingers started getting numb, and I realized it’s because I’ve been writing so much. I try to write everybody back. After mail call, dinner is at 4. We’ll eat enchiladas, or sometimes it’s just eggs or oatmeal. I’d love to sit here and write everything off. But the food’s not real bad; it’s good enough. It’s prison. Plus, it’s been good for my weight. I got in at 218 and I’m 202 now.

What happens when you get out?
I still have seven months of house arrest and a year of probation. But I think I can still surf. They want you to work and that’s my job. Judge gave me {{{80}}} hours of community service and that’s to work with the HB high surf team. I’ve already done my community service here at the prison, but I’m still planning on working with the team. I love working with kids. Plus it’s Huntington. It’s one of my favorite places.

How did they treat you here overall?
A lot of the guards actually surf here, so most of em are pretty cool. Of course, there’s tne or two who got picked on in school when they were kids and are trying to get back at everyone for it. But you have that with everything. It’s funny – a guy will yell at you and you just have to listen and obey. If he tells you to move, you move. Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow, but this whole three months has been a blessing. It’s changed my whole outlook on life.

Are you slower to anger?
I wouldn’t go that far yet. [laughs] I’m me. But for sure I have a lot more patience. I’ll be more quick to think than react. I definitely don’t want to be sitting back in here. That’s for sure. I’ve been reading a lot. Reading the Bible every day. Read this book called The Secret that’s really good, all about visualization and the power of positive thinking. Most of the things in the book I thought about when I won the world title. Just knowing you’re the best surfer in the world. I remember thinking there was no way I was going to lose.

What were the other inmates like?
The camp is all white collar criminals. Old men who evaded taxes, insider trading, that kind of thing. Conspiracy charges. A lot of really old men, like, that guy doesn’t belong in prison. He belongs in a rest home. [laughs]


No confrontations?
I got into a lot of confrontations in here first couple of weeks. Mainly in the tv room. I came in, all bad, grabbed my chair and sat down. Guy came in and said, hey man, that’s my spot. I’m like what? I thought the little white guy was trying to punk the new guy. So I’m like, “I don’t see your name on it. This ain’t your spot.” He’s like, “No, it’s my spot.” I didn’t know it was assigned seats. There’s 10 other empty seats all over the place. So I got kinda mad and kicked the chair across the room and said, “Well, get your f–king seat then.” And then later on, my friend, was like, hey man, everyone has their assigned seat. So I apologized. Because you’re in prison, you’re not able to control your own life. So the guys here hold on to things like assigned seating because it’s one of the few things they’re able to control. They’re real serious about their spot. [laughs]

Do the days go by slow?
We have a funny group here. I’ve met a lot of good friends. Just a bunch of Hawaiians heckling each other all day long. We play racquetball. We all suck, so we just talk shit. Time during the day goes by quick. A lot of the guys aren’t necessarily bad people, just caught up in bad circumstances. I’m definitely going to be sad to leave a lot of my friends here.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get out?
Call my kids. We talk all the time, but I can’t wait to see them again. Then I’m gonna go to Dr. G. My back and neck is so messed up from the beds here. Shitty little cots with a thin piece of foam.

What about your wife? Are you guys working that out?
We’re getting a divorce. I hoped the three months apart would help it out, but it’s not happening. I just want her to be happy. If being happy without me is what she wants, then I truly wish her the best. It’s a big heartbreaker for me, though. Without Reina, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This loss is the hardest one I’ve ever had. I’m losing my wife and my best friend. As much of a bummer this has been, falling off tour, losing my wife, it’s changed my perspective in life. All the little things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore.

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