Three months ago Huntington Beach surfer and National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) standout, 20-year old Chris Love overdosed on prescription drugs. His shocking death sparked an outcry from locals who, determined to prevent such tragedies from happening again, launched DFS, the Drug Free Sports movement to encourage young surfers and athletes to live a drug-free lifestyle.
Now, the NSSA has teamed up with DFS to help spread the drug-free message through the positive aspects of surfing, competing and education. To promote discipline and competitive excellence, the NSSA requires participants to maintain academic standards in order to compete. About 2,000 young surfers participate in more than 80 NSSA events nationwide that culminate with the annual National Championships, regarded as the highest profile, youth surfing event in America.
According to Janice Aragon, NSSA’s executive director, a drug-free effort that specifically targets the surfing community deserves the full support of NSSA.
“Our youth are finding joy in the waves and in competing, and we need to help them carry that throughout their lives, without the need of drugs,” said Janice Aragon.
At NSSA events, there will soon be public service announcements and signage to help spread the anti-drug message.
Behind the Movement
At its foundation, the DFS movement is a sticker-campaign intended to showcase the positive lifestyle choices of the individual whose board carries the sticker.
Internationally known professional surfers such as Peter Mel, Nat Young, Reef McIntosh and Brett Simpson have stepped up to show their support and their surfboards carry a DFS sticker. Mel is also actively involved in the organization.
“Our goal is to create positive peer pressure and highlight the stoke of surfing, and any sport really, that gives you a great feeling of accomplishment and being part of something bigger,” said John Salanoa, founder of DFS. “Kids want to emulate the surfers they look up to and having athletes like Peter Mel and Brett Simpson on our side helps give us a fighting chance to save lives.”
To date, hundreds of stickers have been distributed to surfers throughout Southern California’s beach communities, and across the world including Australia Japan, Brazil, Dubai and South Africa.
According to a recent The National Institute on Drug Abuse study showing the statistics on the general use of drugs, the overall use of illicit drugs was up in the last 10 years. According to the study, 8.7% of the population over 12 years of age had used or abused an illicit drug or psychotherapeutic medication (pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer), equating to a total 22.5 million Americans who had used drugs.
Most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers. Half of new drug users are under the age of 18. The age group with the highest concentration of drug users is the late teen years and twenties. However, ages 14-15 have a higher average rate of use than all of the age groups 35 and over, showing that drug use is affecting teens at a younger age than ever before.
This illicit drug use has permeated the surf community, and with devastating results. In the past 24 months, the surf community has lost more than two dozen members, all under the age of 23, to illicit drug use.
A University of Michigan study recently showed that peer influences have been found to be among the strongest predictors of drug use during adolescence.
“We know what’s going on. We see it in the parking lots and alleys, and kids even brag about their drug use through SnapChat and other social media outlets. If we can create positive peer pressure and give kids the motivation and inspiration they need to not get started with drugs, then we will have accomplished so much,” added Salanoa.
Over the past three months, DFS has been contacted by dozens of kids who shared their stories of peer pressure and see DFS as giving them that accountability and strength to continue to fight against the pressure.
For more information or to join the movement, visit www.dfsmovement.org and http://www.facebook.com/DFS-Movement. DFS has filed for non-profit status with the state of California.