Why is it that so many child surfing prodigies never realize their full potential? Each year the magazines proclaim a handful of youngsters to be the next Kelly Slater. In reality, these pint-sized surf stars are just as likely to reach rehab as they are the Top 10.
Today I'm highlighting the inspirational story of David Eggers -- perhaps the most dominant amateur surfer in history, who joined the World Tour, only to succumb to drug abuse and mental illness. Eggers descended into a dark obscurity, forgotten by the industry that helped create his downfall.
Amazingly, Eggers overcame his addiction and reinvented himself, gaining worldwide literary fame as the author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."
Some highlights from Dave Eggers' Wiki entry:
David Eggers was born January 8, 1970, in Mountain View, CA (although it should be noted that in his purportedly autobiographical memoir, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," Eggers claims to have been born in Lake Forest, a suburb of Chicago).
Eggers was raised in Clairemont, CA, and began surfing at the age of seven despite his father's prejudices - the patriarch of the Eggers clan believed all surfers to be derelicts and drug addicts. By age 8, little David already possessed a turbo-charged, functional style that allowed him to do then-futuristic maneuvers such as backside 360s.
Eggers had a nearly-unbeatable aura as an amateur, winning 225 trophies and 4 U.S. National titles. In 1985 Eggers dropped out of 10th grade, signed a lucrative pro contract with Gotcha, and set out on the raucous world tour, nearly unaccompanied. Although he easily beat some of the top surfers in the world and rose to #34 in the ratings, Eggers was mercilessly hazed by older members of the surfing fraternity, and he quickly succumbed to the temptation of drugs. By 1987 Eggers had quit the tour, lost his contracts, was nearly-homeless, and freebasing cocaine.
Throughout the 1990's, Eggers struggled with addiction, turned in some legendary underground performances in La Jolla, and was finally diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 1997. With the support of his family, Eggers received treatment for his addiction and mental illness.
Although never again a factor in professional surfing, Eggers amazingly channeled a previously unknown literary talent into the sensational 2000 book-debut "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," which masqueraded as a factual memoir of his parents deaths' due to cancer. In the best-selling book, Eggers goes on to describe the challenges he faced in raising a 14-year-old younger brother, Toph, in Berkeley, California.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is usually classified as a
David Eggers Today
Eggers is married to the novelist Vendala Vida, lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and continues to have great success as a writer, editor, publisher, and philanthropist. He is a founder of McSweeney's a literary journal. In addition to penning a number of novels, he helps run 826 Valencia, a non-profit writing center for low-income youths.
Although David's brother Scott is a fixture in the San Francisco surf community, David either surfs in seclusion or not at all, having focused his energies on literature. Occasionally, he is rumored to be spotted surfing alone, at dusk or dawn, turning in mind-blowing performances in waves of heavy consequence.