Earlier this year, Matt Archbold’s lifestyle was as radical and unpredictable as the waves he surfed each day.
Speeding through life’s fast lane, Archbold landed in a San Clemente jail last spring and later in a rehabilitation clinic to fight a drug and alcohol habit.
Only 21, Archbold’s surfing career appeared to be over.
But less than five months later, his recovery has come full circle. He edged friend and fellow San Clemente surfer Dino Andino to win the Laguna Sportswear pro-am competition Sunday at Salt Creek Beach.
Archbold earned $7,400 for the victory; Andino earned $3,400 and took over first place in the point standings with his finish. Ted Robinson of Manhattan Beach, who was third, won $2,500 and fourth-place finisher Vince De La Pena earned $2,200.
“It seems like everything is going right for me,” Archbold said. “I want to keep it up and not let myself down.”
Archbold knows all about letdowns. He just wasn’t ready to deal with them.
But in April, when Archbold was arrested for driving under the influence, he realized his life was being wiped out.
While sitting in an eight-foot by 10-foot cell, Archbold did a lot of thinking. He thought about his family, the friends he lost and the surfing contests he couldn’t compete in because he was hungover. He thought about his dependency on alcohol and cocaine, and how it cost him his major sponsorship on the pro tour.
“I took a long look at myself and decided I didn’t like myself,” Archbold said.
So Archbold checked into the Betty Ford Clinic. He learned to deal with his problems, and his dependency.
He checked out of the clinic early in the summer and rejoined the Professional Surfing Assn. of America tour. He finished seventh in his first event back, at Oceanside in June. Then he reached the finals at San Clemente in July, where he placed fourth.
Then came the victory at Salt Creek.
“I’m thankful that I pulled through everything,” Archbold said. “My family and my girlfriend have been behind me.”
Archbold appears to have his problems behind him. At least that’s what Andino says.
“I’m stoked for him,” Andino said. “He’s different now in every way, mentally, physically. He was more to himself before. We drifted apart as friends. But now he’s much more open with everyone.”
And especially with himself.
Although he finished second for the second consecutive event, Andino didn’t go home disappointed. Andino passed Charlie Kuhn of Indian Harbor, Fla., for the lead in the point standings and has a 297-point lead over Kuhn, who was eliminated in the quarterfinals Sunday.
The points title has eluded Andino the last two seasons, with him placing second to Mike Lambresi of Oceanside both times. With only four events on the 11-stop tour remaining this year, Andino hopes he has the championship in his grasp.
“It feels good to be in the lead,” Andino said, “but it ain’t by much. I’ve got my focus back and my head’s on right (after a slow start this season).”
Mike Stewart, a native of Anaheim now living in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, won his third title this season in the bodyboarding division, holding off Harry Antipala of Kalaheo, Hawaii, in the finals.
Stewart, a three-time U.S. champion, extended his lead over Hawaii’s Ben Severson to 598 points in the overall standings.
“The race is still close,” Stewart said. “The last contest at San Clemente, I thought I did well but I got beat by Ben.”
After struggling with small one- and two-foot waves all through the event, the competitors enjoyed three- and five-foot waves for Sunday’s finals.
“I had talked to (surf forecaster) Sean Collins on Saturday and he told me there was a swell coming up,” Stewart said. “It helped to know what was going to happen in advance. I always want to catch the best waves I can, so I knew I could wait for the better ones today.”
Besides earning $7,400 in prize money, Matt Archbold won an additional $200 for riding the top wave of the finals. . . . By finishing second in her bodyboarding quarterfinal heat, Stephanie Pettersen of Haleiwa, Hawaii, became the first woman to advance to the semifinals of an event on the Professional Surfing Assn. of America tour. Pettersen finished third in her semifinal and failed to reach the finals. . . . The next stop on the PSAA tour starts Wednesday in Malibu.
FINAL--1. Matt Archbold (San Clemente). 2. Dino Andino (San Clemente). 3. Ted Robinson (Manhattan Beach). 4. Vince De La Pena (Laguna Niguel).
Semifinals (Top two advanced to final)
Heat 1--1. De La Pena. 2. Robinson. 3. David Eggers (San Diego). 4. Paul Barr (Carlsbad). Heat 2--1. Archbold. 2. Andino. 3. Sean Mattison (Carlsbad). 4. Todd Chesser (San Diego).
Quarterfinals (Top two advanced to semifinals)
Heat 1--1. Robinson. 2. Barr. 3. Pat O’Connell (Laguna Niguel). 4. Scott Farnsworth (Huntington Beach). Heat 2--1. De La Pena. 2. Eggers. 3. Charlie Kuhn (Indian Harbor, Fla.). 4. Richie Rudolph (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) Heat 3--1. Andino. 2. Archbold. 3. Juah Ashton (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico). 4. Hans Hagen (Laguna Beach). Heat 4--1. Mattison. 2. Chesser. 3. Todd Miller (Costa Mesa). 4. Adam Replogle (Soquel).
FINAL--1. Mike Stewart (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii). 2. Harry Antipala (Kalaheo, Hawaii). 3. Kyle Maligro (Kalaheo, Hawaii). 4. Jason Brown (Kalaheo, Hawaii).