Author Thad Ziolkowski talks addiction and surfing at the book fair

From shredding the waves as a youth to battling destructive drug addiction in adulthood, author Thad Ziolkowski has learned a lot about balance and focus. The 61-year-old author and genius grant winner will speak about his life journey and the connection between addiction and surfing at a Miami Book Fair livestream event at noon on Friday. 

His new book, “The Drop,” details show how surfing can help pull someone out of addiction and give them a healthy alternative to cope. 

“The book is my story as an addict and a surfer,” Ziolkowski said. “It’s an addiction memoir and also about surf history and the number of surfers who suffer from addiction.” 

After his family moved to Melbourne Beach, 9-year-old Ziolkowski turned to surf to escape a rough home life. He said he began obsessing over the sport, and that soon became his first addiction.

After surfing idol Dick Catri was arrested for selling weed in the early ’70s, Ziolkowski began to learn about surfing’s culture of addiction.  

“That was my first really dramatic experience with the reality of drugs in my community,” said Ziolkowski.

When he began college at George Washington University, Ziolkowski dropped surfing from his life entirely like an addict quitting a drug cold turkey. He said he felt like the love and passion he had for riding the waves would distract from his studies, but instead, it took away the thing that kept him away from drugs. “I quit surfing on the threshold of college because I saw surfing as an addiction,” he said. “I knew it had an extremely strong hold over me and I needed to walk away from it in order to focus properly.”

In the years that followed, he became addicted to alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine. Ziolkowski relied on the stimulants almost daily and knew he had to try and quit.

Ultimately, surfing again became a shield against addiction for Ziolkowski, allowing him to rediscover life and write about his experiences.  

“I surf to stay happy and to have something to get me out of bed and stay fit for, but also to avoid the destructive addictions to which I’m obviously susceptible,” Ziolkowski said

The event will also feature David Sheff, author of The New York Times bestseller “Beautiful Boy.” Sheff advocates for addicts and supports research on finding effective ways to battle addiction. The pair will speak about how addiction can consume someone’s life and the turbulent road to sobriety. 

For more details, see the Miami Book Fair website.

Liam Rooney is a junior majoring in digital journalism and a staff writer for PantherNOW’s sports section. Liam would like to continue his career journey in the world of sports media after he graduates.