What was your lowest moment?
One day in Bali I woke up in the hospital with an IV stuck in me, with no recollection of the last 24 hours. When I woke up they told me someone found me passed out in some grass on the side of a street. They probably thought I was dead. Fortunately I wasn’t.
From drugs or drinking?
Everything. Drugs and drinking. And afterwards, after spending time in a hospital bed, I still didn’t get it. I walked out of there, paid 500 dollars, and went on my way like it was no big deal.
That’s a heavy situation.
Yeah, I look back and I’m lucky to be here. What a waste. I ask myself, “Why the hell did I do that?”
Did the passing of Andy Irons have any profound significance for you?
When I heard Andy died; it stirred my soul. I thought, “Wow, Andy just died, and he’s the king.” I felt like he was invincible, he was the guy that could do anything and pull it off no matter what. When everyone found out he was taking drugs and that played a part of why he passed away, maybe it kind of woke us up. It definitely shook me up. It’s scary, he had it all. World titles, a baby on the way…but drugs are that powerful, they can completely f—k you up. They can take down the best people in the world. It made me realize that. You can die; it’s not a rare thing. When it happened to Andy, it was a jaw-dropper.
So what finally gave?
Reef cut me, and that was the best thing that happened. I had to grow up and learn how to actually f—king work. I worked with my dad, and he is the hardest worker ever. He wakes up at 5:00 a.m. every morning and goes looking for work. For me to jump in on that boat with him—it was depressing. A gnarly wake-up call.
But in a short time I learned a lot. I learned how to survive and was forced to grow up. It was good for me. I worked my ass off and realized life isn’t easy. I was doing everything from construction to plumbing—the things my dad does for work. I realized how hard he works to make a penny and it made me feel like a piece of shit for the way I’d been living. I was living in a fantasy world. I was an arrogant, cocky prick. I didn’t mean to act that way—I just hadn’t grown up. I didn’t think I could lose my job.
That’s quite the life transition.
Yeah, and it all started when I got the call from Heath [Walker] telling me I was being let go in the beginning of 2011. I was actually at Planned Parenthood with Darlene [Nick’s girlfriend], because we thought she might be pregnant.
Darlene: I walked outside after being told I wasn’t pregnant—and Nick was outside by a tree just bawling.
Nick: Yeah, I just cried and cried and cried. And it sounds weird, but a part of me was happy. Like, the lifestyle that I knew was unhealthy was over. I could finally break the pattern. I called my dad, told him the news, and he was like, “I saw that coming.”
Darlene: And then you decided to move home to work, and we didn’t know what was going to happen with us because I stayed down here with my parents.
Nick: Yeah, and a few weeks later I had the bomb dropped on my head. Turns out she was pregnant after all and they’d been wrong the first time.
So you got dropped, moved home and away from your relationship thinking you weren’t going to be a dad, and then all of a sudden got the news Darlene was pregnant after all.
Exactly. I almost had a heart attack. I was back in Ventura in a lot of debt, with no money, no plan B, and I was done with surfing. Brushed. Game over.