“Ruffo was a big deal, definitely someone you wanted to be like,” said Shawn Barron, another Santa Cruz surfer.
Today, Mr. Ruffo is staring at prison. A recovering methamphetamine addict, he is charged for the second time with dealing the drug in the seaside town where he grew up.
Mr. Ruffo, 48, admits he once sold meth in partnership with a violent Latino street gang, the Norteños. His story illuminates meth’s destructive march through Santa Cruz in recent years, reaching into a surfing community associated more with vitality and communion with the natural world than with drugs.
“In the back of my head, I was, like, I’m too deep in this game,” Mr. Ruffo said in an interview at a Santa Cruz house where he regularly used drugs in the past and now helps other recovering addicts. “It’s hard to pull out once you get there.”
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