To the tip and back: Longboarder Mark Evans’ story of recovery
Like a lot of South Bay surf gremlins, Mark Evans’ first surfing experience was through the LA County Junior Lifeguards program.
“My parents lived on PV Drive,” Evans said. “So I’d walk down the bridal path down to Rat Beach with my 6-foot-3 ET surfboard, my first board.”
But by being in an area rich in surf heritage with waves that favor longer equipment, Evans gravitated toward longboarding, as did many of his peers. His contemporaries included Chris Bredesen Jr., Brian Long, Kevin Mitchell and Shawn O’Brien. The time was the mid ‘90s, the start of a South Bay longboard renaissance.
“It was a very happening time,” shaper Jon Wegener of Wegener Surfboards said. “The kids were really pushing each other in events like Hermosa Beach’s Aloha Day’s contest.”
The traditional aspect was Evans’ first fixation.
The two Wegener brothers, Jon and Tom, took the young Evans under their wings.
“Tom began making my boards and helping me hone my style — where to position yourself on a wave and in the barrel, the code of surfing secret spots, and something very important — never to surf with a leash.” Evans said.
Evans was thrown in “Coach” Tom Wegener’s car and driven up and down the coast, chasing swells and touring with Wegener’s film “Siesta and Olas.”
“Tom made me ride an early ‘60s Hansen board with a huge D fin and a pointy nose,” Evans recalled. “We went to Rincon on a perfect five foot day, were I was instructed to have a parallel stance and cross-step with no arm motion, refine my style, and not lose any power.”
By the beginning of his teens, Evans would dominate the Middle School division and the juniors division of the NSSA. He also became a favorite subject of surf photographer Jim Russi.< “It’d be a huge day at Burnout and I’d be out pulling into barrels for Jim Russi shots,” said Evans. “Then in the afternoon, tail turning and noseriding at a private cove.”
His success in contests, his sponsorship with Wegener, and frequent pictures in domestic and overseas longboard publications, earned Evans a story in Longboard Magazine.
“He was the first of our little South Bay longboard generation to break out,” Shawn O’Brien said.
It was during this time that he began experiencing the party scene and getting lost in the beginning stages of addiction.
“I had distrust for authority and loved the feeling of partying. It helped me cope with certain feelings,” Evans said. “My parents raised me right and I was involved in sports and community services. No one could have expected this and it can happen to anybody.”
Evans was accepted into UCSB. But with Isla Vista as the weekend partying playground for the campus, temptation was everywhere.
“Things like school work that I was always good at, became harder.” Evans said. “The worst part is at one point I felt I could never go back to who I was, I couldn’t stop.”
After Evans graduated, an achievement described by himself as a “miracle,” his addictions, which in the college campus party atmosphere went unnoticed, took over.
“I was in a dark place,” Evans said, “literally walking the darkest streets, meeting people and hanging out with people I never imagined I’d be hanging out with.”
Evans had a major life reassessment. He decided that he needed to join a 12-step program.
“I learned that I needed to relearn to feel and surrender to God,” Evans said. “Looking back, I consider my disease a blessing in life, as it made me a stronger person.”
Evans has been following the 12 step program since 23, all though he has “slipped a few times.”
“I tell all young people, I know its fun to experiment,” Evans said. “But I’ve lost a lot of people including a best friend.”
Now Evans is penning a book about addiction recovery and helping out the co-founders of Acceptance House, Palos Verdes first sober living house for men.
“My book is going to be one of spiritual awakening,” Evans said. “For people that need help, there’s a solution.”
Powered by Wegener shapes and sobriety, Evans began competing in the ASP, PLA, US Open, and the World Longboard Championships.
“Mark has always been a competitive kid and when he keeps focus, you’ve got to watch out for him in heats,” Jon Wegener said. “He has become a more rounded surfer.”
Evans continued his education at Loyola Marymount University, earning a Masters in Education and a teaching credential. He teaches history, government, economics and cultural relations at a charter school in Los Angeles, and puts in the extra effort by being involved in after school activities and clubs.
“I feel very lucky to work for my school,” Evans said, “I take pride in the fact that the school is getting better every year.”
He keeps his Palos Verdes heritage alive by playing drums in jam bands inspired by the Grateful Dead, and Phish — music that “fits with his soul and defines who he is.”
Evans is in the water as much as possible for a teacher, ripping roundhouse cutbacks and off-the-tops, charging big waves and barrels, and sticking a few hang tens.
“Even after what Mark, aka “Cutback,” has gone through, he still can lay rail, Thank God!” O’Brien said. “Depending on the wave, he can slice it ‘til it bleeds or tickle it with his fin until it cries.”
He cites as his surfing influences, Tom and Jon Wegener, Chris Bredesen Sr., Bill Burke, and Shawn O’Brien. In his Wegener quiver are 9-foot high performance tri-fin, a 9-foot-6 light single fin, a10-foot heavy, traditional noserider, a 7-foot-10 gun for the winter juice, a twin fin fish and a 6-foot-6” shortboard.
“Mark now can do it all in different formats; surf traditionally or bash the lip on a shortboard He’s a good representative for Wegener Surfboards,” Jon Wegener said and then joked, “He’s not afraid to pull in and has a reputation for snapping a boards.”
Evans plans on following a few jam bands across the U.S. this summer with his lovely companion Shannon, whom he recently proposed to. El Salvador and its tasty waves is his planned bachelor party location.
“If this is as good as life gets, I feel that I won,” Evans said, “I’m rich in so many ways.”
Evans feels that his testimony is helpful to others.
He said, “If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t stop doing something and it’s negatively affecting your life, there is hope, you are not alone. God will help if sought. There is a solution.”
To check out more Photography from Jim Russi go to jimrussi.com