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Garcia is out but defiant

He loses in Round 2 of Boost Mobile Pro and is outspoken about his legal troubles.

September 13, 2007|Pete Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Tattooed in large black letters across Sunny Garcia's chest is the phrase: "DEATH AND TAXES."

Those are the only sure things in life and Garcia, a former world surfing champion, is living proof that if you get caught evading taxes, you go to prison.

Garcia, 37, who remains under house arrest after three months behind bars, was granted permission to compete this week in the Boost Mobile Pro at Lower Trestles near San Clemente.

Clearly rusty but also a victim of weak conditions, the burly Hawaiian who now lives in San Diego was bounced Wednesday in a Round 2 heat against three-time world champion Andy Irons.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday, September 17, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Surfing: An article in Thursday's Sports section incorrectly stated that Sunny Garcia, who is under house arrest after a prison stint for tax evasion, was ordered home by a judge before the start of a Boost Mobile Pro trials event in July. It was the surfer's former parole officer who kept him from competing.

And the event, like the Foster's ASP World Tour, will not be the same without a volatile, albeit personable, athlete who if nothing else can always be counted on to speak his mind.

"I still believe there should be a law that holds CPAs accountable," he said, referring to his legal ordeal. "I'm not an accountant.

"You can give me a paper and put all these numbers on it. I don't know what . . . it means. That's why I'm paying this guy thousands and thousands of dollars to do my taxes."

Garcia won the world title in 2000 and last completed a full season in 2005. Then began the slide. He was charged with tax evasion for failing to pay taxes on more than $400,000 in earnings and was sentenced last October to three months in federal prison and seven months of home confinement. He was released from prison in April.

He endured a divorce and, after prison, was ordered to stay home for seven months except for work, and the judge does not seem to consider surfing work.

"They want me to pay the money back and I can make thousands for surfing every month, or hundreds bouncing in a nightclub," said Garcia, who works weekends at a club in downtown San Diego.

"I went to jail and did my thing. They let murderers and rapists walk the streets and here I am with a GPS around my ankle."

Garcia, wearing a bracelet that tracks his whereabouts, thought he was cleared to compete in the U.S. Open in July at Huntington Beach. He lost his only heat and prepared for the subsequent Boost Mobile Pro Shootout trials event, but the judge ordered him home.

When an injured Damien Hobgood withdrew from the Boost main event, Garcia was invited as a wild card and reportedly gained clearance.

Unfortunately, he drew Irons in the second round and lost a close heat. He paddled slowly back to shore, as if relishing time in the water.

Afterward, in one breath, he said how grateful he was that the judge wasn't harder on him. But in another breath, Garcia was venting again.

"I lost my wife. I lost my job. I lost my . . . dignity, and I lost my job," he said. "I hate it. Basically for me it's worse than prison to be out of jail and not being able to surf.

"At least when I'm in prison I get up and I know I'm not out and I can't look at the ocean. I can just wait for my time to be out. But now I'm bouncing and I also work construction. It's a very humbling experience."

Asked whether he has had any fights as a bouncer, the short-fused surfer said not yet.

"But a lot of people come up to me and tell me, 'Oh my God, did anyone ever tell you that you look like Sunny Garcia?' " he said. "And I'm like, 'Yeah, people tell me that all the time.' "

Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith, two of four wild cards, recorded the day's biggest upsets.

Reynolds, of Ventura, ousted Taj Burrow, an Australian ranked No. 2 in the world. Smith, a South African, defeated Joel Parkinson, an Australian ranked No. 5.

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