The surfing world was rocked this week with news that former professional surfer Adam Replogle had been sexually abused as a 12-year-old grom while on the competition circuit and staying with a team manager in San Diego. “He was an ex-professional surfer helping develop young kids,” Replogle told The Inertia.
The revelation came on Kyle Thiermann’s podcast in early January and news of the conversation was broken by Surfline’s Marcus Sanders this week. Replogle’s story is especially poignant given the Larry Nassar case where the U.S. Gymnastics team doctor was recently sentenced 40 to 175 years in prison after being found guilty of multiple counts of child molestation.
In 1983 Replogle–who was on the World Tour in 1998 and spent years on the WQS–was staying with his surf team manager, preparing for a contest. “He was feeding me beer and whipping out pornography, things that were red flags to me,” Replogle said on the podcast. The Santa Cruz, California native had already been abused once before as a six-year-old in nearby Capitola so he was “street smart” to the situation, he said.
When the man molested him in the bed they were sharing later that night, Replogle quickly found a way to run from the house and fled to a Safeway where he called his mother before soliciting help from a border patrol agent. Replogle says when the police got involved, the team manager was black-balled from the industry and moved to Mexico.
Thiermann and Replogle, were in the midst of a conversation on youth development in surfing when Replogle decided to tell the story of his abuse, revealing it in public for the first time. “I became really good at drinking, and so I’ve been talking to a therapist,” Replogle told me. “Kyle and I were talking about the surf world and (given my experience) it’s something that scares the hell out of me having kids. I had no agenda when talking to Kyle. It almost felt like it was another therapy session. After reading what I had said, I was sort of taken back, too.”
Replogle hadn’t talked to anyone about it before so when the news came out he had to make a call to his young daughter to let her know that it would be online. “It was a cleansing feeling, being able to say it,” he admitted.
Thiermann was caught off guard by the revelations but handled it well during the interview. “As a community, it’s really important that we support people that are brave enough to come out about rape and molestation,” said Thiermann, who has had guests reveal things on his show before. “I think that podcasting is a unique medium that can allow guests to feel more comfortable than a television interview. It can result in more honesty and these types of revelations.”
The 46-year-old Replogle, who still rips and is a regular at Pleasure Point, has sincerely tried to make the story about more than himself. He says he doesn’t want it to happen again and wants parents to be vigilant.
“I don’t know of any other examples in the surf industry,” he said. “But what I do notice is big groups of young boys and girls sent out to travel (without in-depth knowledge of the chaperones) and it’s a recipe for disaster. I want parents to be consciously aware. There was a guy here in Santa Cruz running a surf school. He was a teacher at the local youth club and went to prison for molesting kids. You never find out about this stuff until it’s too late. Kids could pick up the signs if they knew them. Parents need to do their due diligence.”