Addicts Balance Life, Surfboard at FleaHab

Champion surfer Darryl "Flea" Virostko is seen on the Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009, broadcast of the "CBS Evening News." After recovering from his own addiction problems, he started teaching surfing classes at Providence Recovery Center in Santa Cruz, Calif.,
Champion surfer Darryl "Flea" Virostko is seen on the Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009, broadcast of the "CBS Evening News." After recovering from his own addiction problems, he started teaching surfing classes at Providence Recovery Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., to share with others in recovery his realization that exercise and sea air help keep his mind off drugs and alcohol.
CBS

Riding huge waves, Darryl Virostko once looked so small he got the nickname "Flea."

Flea seemed fearless on waves that rise more than 50 feet at California's Mavericks, one of the biggest of the big-wave surf contests. He won Mavericks three times, but now it turns out Flea had a secret, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

"First time I surfed Mavericks I was high on acid," Virostko told Blackstone.

Over the past decade, while some were calling him the world's greatest surfer, his life was ruled by drugs and alcohol.

"Basically just try to get up, get high, meth, you know, smoke some meth and then drink vodka, just straight into vodka," Virostko told Blackstone. "It was pretty bad. It was an everyday thing."

It was the reason he fell from a cliff last year in Santa Cruz, Calif.

"It really almost killed me," Virostko told Blackstone.

Soon after that, he headed into rehab.

"I knew I was blowing it with the whole drug thing and just how I was feeling and how I looked," Virostko told Blackstone.

Virostko has been sober for a year, but now he's back in rehab at the Providence Recovery Center in Santa Cruz - this time as an instructor, a surfing instructor.

"We thought what a great fit it would be if we combined surfing and other physical activities along with traditional treatment," center program director Janet Norton told Blackstone.

It was Virostko's idea. He calls it "FleaHab," sharing with others in recovery his realization that exercise and sea air help keep his mind off drugs and alcohol. So now this big wave champion can be found sitting on what for him are unusually mild seas with some who have never surfed before.

"It showed me I could do something that I didn't think I could do," FleaHab graduate Tracie told Blackstone.

"I'm not a great surfer, but it was wonderful, it was great," Lisa, another graduate, told Blackstone.

Virostko finds that teaching gives him almost the same thrill as grabbing a monster wave.

"It's like I'm a kid again when I see someone fall in love with surfing and actually get pushed into a wave and then they get up, and they ride the wave and they're just so thrilled, you know," Virostko told Blackstone.

When the surf gets high enough for this winter's Mavericks contest, Virostko intends to be back on the big waves, taking them on sober this time, but he's also sure that small waves can help solve a big problem.