Tom Carroll Tells All

Australian surf hero comes clean about his drug addiction in "60 Minutes" interview

| posted on October 30, 2013
Tom Carroll

Two-time world champion Tom Carroll, who spent a good part of the last decade battling a meth addiction. Photo: Ellis

Tom Carroll has struggled with a crystal meth addiction since 2002, the two-time world champion revealed on Australia’s 60 Minutes Sunday night. Carroll was interviewed alongside older brother Nick Carroll, who has co-written the forthcoming autobiography, TC: Tom Carroll, a book that promises to chronicle some of the darkest moments of Tom’s life. Tom’s struggle with drug addiction has by no means been a tightly-kept secret within the surf world, but it is nevertheless not widely reported. He checked into a drug rehab facility in 2006, which made few headlines, and Tom was understandably reticent to discuss what put him there. His drug use has only occasionally been referenced by the media over the years.

On 60 Minutes however, Tom spent nearly 20 minutes opening up about how big a role his addiction to meth has played in his life. “It was killing me from the inside out,” he admitted. “I was a desperate addict.” He had his first taste of cocaine in the early ‘80s, when the drug was tearing its way its way through the pro surfing ranks. Ecstasy and LSD followed, and in 2002 Tom got hooked on meth. Drugs helped Tom, shy by his own admission, “loosen up and connect.” Soon after, he was a daily user. “It didn’t stop when he’d stopped being a pro surfer; it didn’t stop when he’d shaken off the last bit of his competitive aspirations; it didn’t stop when he’d had kids,” Nick explained of his younger brother’s drug use. “It was going to kill him.”

Tom’s stint at rehab was successful, and he reports that he’s been clean for seven years. His addiction did cost him his wife Lisa, whom he had married in 1991, but he maintains good relationships with his three daughters today. It’s also clear from the 60 Minutes piece that without Nick, who sits in front of his younger brother during the interview, assuming something of a protective role in a vulnerable moment, that Tom would probably have sunk deeper into his pit of drug-fueled despair. “Sometimes,” Nick told Tom during his rehab, “we have to stand on each other’s shoulders for support.”

Watch the full interview here:

  • yewwsef jewstein

    whoa heavy….had no idea good on him

  • Jimmy the Saint

    “Tom’s struggle with drug addiction has by no means been a tightly-kept secret within the surf world, but it is nevertheless not widely reported” Why was this not widely reported? Why did Surfer not report it, how many other pros are struggling with addiction that will only come to light in a few years time? You guys are supposed to be journalists and reporters, whose first obligation is to tell the truth, ugly or not, when are you going to start doing that rather than appeasing the sponsors. Or am I being a bit harsh? Good look to Tom, seems like a great guy, glad he is off the drugs, next step is to get off those god damn SUPs.

    • Eric

      Lotta people knew, but it was not gossip fodder. There is a certain amount of privacy and respect in that, especially since he was retired. Where the problems lie is when journalists cover it up, or more to the point refuse to touch the topic, since they are clearly scared of backlash. That is whats pathetic. Think : Irons brothers. Everyone was on something in the 80’s, now pro’s doing drugs are the exception, not the rule. Good on Tom for coming clean, and hopefully it will help some people who need an example.

  • Bosco

    I agree with Jimmy, if these things have been widely reported why is it so hard to find specific details about things related to drug use in surfing? When Andy passed (RIP) I searched far and wide on the internet for stories because i was interested and had not really ever heard things related to him and all i could find were very vague references. Even the story about him on Tavarua that one time doesn’t even say what he was allegedly on. I know people probably don’t want to be considered rats or whatever but when it is written that these things are not “tightly-kept” or “rumors abound” and “widely-known”, etc…, what are those who cover surfing for a living afraid of? Bro-culture? There isn’t one journalist or publication out there who wants to do an expose? Are the surf brands not going to advertise in their pubs if so? Just name the sources as “confidential” like any other journalist and get it out there. Hiding it wont help the situation if this is a problem and if its just some people who have issues like most of society then no big deal. there are abuse problems in all walks of life.

    • Stu Azole

      Ssshhhhh… pretty soon, people may find out AI was doing drugs too.

  • Dustin

    Drugs or not Tom will always have a good place in surfing. Like any champion they strive for positive greatness. Glad he took this bull by the horns and kicked it. Good on ya Tom. Stoked.

    Surfing is the best drug my friends.

  • bcosta

    @ Jimmy the Saint…it’s never going to happen that a surf mag “blows the lid” on the industry or world champs. That’s just ridiculous. Should his friends have stepped in, sure, but every personal battle is different…so it’s easy to armchair quarterback but a lot tougher in the real world.

  • surferreader

    Amazon has this book only as an e-book — how can I get it in the USA on paper?

  • Tony B

    Surf/skate culture is drug culture. It is surprising that someone so advanced in that world was a huge addict.

  • dave j

    Come on, not one main stream single surf publication can do an honest, consumer reports style review of wetsuits, surfboards, etc, why would anyone expect them to act like journalists when it comes to this material?

  • Stu Azole

    Super convenient that he’s willing to discuss just in time to make a buck on the book. TC, from legend to surf-whore just like that. Shame.

  • Luciano

    “Not widely reported?” I have read every surf magazine that I had the chance to from 1989 to 1999 and I have never noticed the slightest mention of “drug use” by Tom Carroll. I thought he was a health fanatic or something like that; Great job SURFER!

  • Adam West

    The surfing press has always been weak with the drug scene in pro surfing. When Robbie Page went to jail in Japan it was about 6 months before it was in the press. Likewise, ANYONE who has been behind the scenes at a pro contest will know that many pro surfers were on the gear. There’s no need to name names but TC and Andy Irons are not the only former world champions to have been heavy drug users. The surfing press and surfing industry are simply unprofessional with what they cover up. That’s all there is to it.

  • Hendrix

    Way to go Tom – you’ve always been a legend at pipe and great to see you kick this. Can we get some courses where the ASP have the current squad listen to former pros like Tom etc. talk of the dangers and ways to avoid it and kick it. Maybe Christian Surfers can share what they are doing to stay drug-free. After losing icons like AI and the years lost by Tommy, Hedgehog etc. – can the ASP take action to cut the losses..

  • Andrew

    I always admired Tom Carroll’s surfing style, graceful yet so powerful. Watching him carve up big Margaret River was to watch an almost artistic display. I never ever heard about this struggle with addiction. I always imagined he was super-fit and super-healthy. At 56, he is just 5 years younger than me so he was in the forefront of fame and glory during both of our prime years of surfing. I still surf as much as I can and I admire the older pros still chasing big waves and being involved in the sport.

    I’m glad Tom has beaten this addiction and I wish him big aloha to stay clean and enjoy spending time with his daughters, his new partner and to have fun with his surfing. Stay strong, Tom!

  • Pavlo

    Wow. TC is one guy that I never thought would do crystal meth! When I was a young kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s learning how to surf Tom was always kind of a hero to me. So surprising to hear that. Well, I hope he stays clean. Good luck mate.

    • brazilian surfer

      I think the same..for me Carrol was an example of fitness and health, I´m very surprised about that, and hope he´s really and tottaly clean now.

  • Hank

    ANother example of how surf journalism tries to cover up, and not shine a light on things as they happen. This is old news. Doesn’t any surf journalism publication have the guts to tell the truths that need to be told?

  • in a fog

    The NFL didn’t want ESPN to broadcast “League of Denial” which documented the NFL’s attempts to cover up the connection of playing football and concussions.(It was broadcast on PBS). ESPN didn’t want to get on the bad side of their income producers either.

  • dgb

    Makes you wonder whether those bench mark setting snaps at pipe were legendary achievements or just meth induced bravado.

  • whamo

    Abusing meth for that long probably strained his heart. It will probably cost him 10 years off his life.

  • gg

    stay clean tom it will be worth it in the long run , and be with your daughters and may be gran kids will be in the cards aloha from gg

  • Michael

    The reason these things are not widely reported is that the surf scene is pretty tight. The surf reporters are surfers as well and don’t want to dob on their mates. In a way it is good – they – look after their mates. In another way it is really bad – the general surfing public get a caricature of their surf idols.

  • Dr. Herby Bell

    Best wishes, Tom. You’ve always been a hero and inspiration. Wipe out 7 times…paddle out 8 times. I can’t wait to see what biggies you paddle into in our remaining Life session of health and wellness. You’ve got millions of US rooting for you. Takes one to know one and you’re in good company. Stay well.

  • Lee

    How is it possible that we champion sport and yet hide drug abuse ? What does this say about our society – that as long as some one can catch a big wave then it is okay that his life behind closed doors is not relevant. This is not an indictment on Tom Carroll but rather the fact that we do not actually celebrate life itself rather the achievements of men and women. Time for us all to actually stop and recognise what pain and hurt we have within and actually start to work on this rather than hide in ‘wave’ or whatever that maybe…

  • Stephen G

    There’s plenty of stories of surfers who have struggled with drugs… Some of you need to read Occy’s book.

  • turtlerider

    He is still a little beast,, just watch Storm Surfers and see him tow in to 40 footers,, everyone has there vices..