Home Break: Leo Carillo
I grew up in San Pedro in the Harbor Area of Los Angeles. My Dad was a surfer, so very early on he would always try to get me in the water. I got held down in the shore pound a few times when I was around 8 years old and didn't surf again for many years. In middle school I started getting into trouble. In 7th grade I almost got expelled for selling illegal switchblades and brass knuckles I had smuggled back into the U.S. after a trip to Mexico with my Dad. One of the kids I had sold a switchblade to pulled it out on a kid and I got caught. My parents didn’t know what to do with me. I was heading down the wrong path very early on. I decided to turn it around and picked up surfing again. I took to it like a duck to water. It just clicked. I got very good, very fast. By 9th grade I had started competing and getting recognition. At the time, Tyler Hatzikian was an idol to me. The way he was able to whip his 30 pound longboard around and lock in hang tens in a dumping beach break like El Porto was astounding to me. It still is to this day! I met him in Oceanside one day at a contest. He watched me surf a heat, then put me on his team immediately. This was one of the high points in my life. I owe that man a huge debt. We started working together and my surfing continued to progress. Not long after, I got a small interview in Longboard Magazine. Things looked to be on the up and up.
Right around this time I started experimenting with drugs. If you had it, I wanted to try it. I remember it as clear as day the first time I took Vicodin. I had never felt anything like it. I felt like I had been missing something my whole life and finally found it. I had no idea at the time but that day would change my life forever. My surfing began on a sharp decline. Tyler Hatzikian invited me a trip to Japan with him and I didn’t go. I got invited to East Timor on a Longboard Magazine video shoot with some of the best longboarders in the world and I didn’t go. I was coming up with guys like Tyler Warren and Alex Knost. These are the guys who are at the very top of the longboarding community today. I can’t deny that I have some regrets for taking the path I did.
The drug use got continuously worse over the following years. I started using heroin and got heavily addicted to benzodiazepines like xanax and klonopin. I was in and out of treatment, sober living and jails. I just couldn’t manage to stay sober. This went on all throughout my 20’s. Any type of hustle to get another fix I was up for. In 2013, I got arrested twice in rapid succession for selling drugs. It seemed as though I was destined for death or a life of going in and out of prison. It felt like there was no way out. Life felt hopeless. My family was done and had made peace with the fact that I would probably die soon. How dark it is before the dawn!
I bailed out of jail and went into treatment. The detox and withdrawal was extremely rough this time around. I had been on methadone maintenance for many years and had a heavy addiction to xanax and crystal meth by this point. All I could think about was using during those early times of sobriety. Luckily, the rug had been swept out from under me and I was looking at some serious prison time if I didn’t stay sober. I fought the case from treatment and came out with a deal of no prison time and was court mandated to treatment for a year. The time I spent in treatment that first year was one of the hardest years of my life. Getting through the mental and physical problems from all those years of substance abuse was a nightmare.
When I finally got out of treatment, I began to get back into healthy activities. I picked up Muay Thai and started surfing again. It was hard at first and very discouraging. I hadn't touched a surfboard in over a decade. Slowly but surely it started coming back to me. I started working at a treatment center in Malibu called Summit Malibu. It was unreal to be able to go work in the field that gave me my life back, help out other addicts struggling then go surf some of the best waves in the world. One day after work I decided to go surf one of our local breaks in Malibu. To my surprise, CJ Nelson was out in the water absolutely shredding! I had grown up watching this guy all throughout my childhood. I don't think there is anyone else in the world that can surf as well as he does. We snagged a few waves and started talking. He told me his story and his own battle with alcoholism. We hit it off and started working together! What blows my mind about that day is that I almost didn't go surf. I was tired from a long day at work and wanted to go straight home, something pulled me to the beach that day. With CJ's coaching and getting on the CJ Nelson Designs team, my surfing has progressed to a level I never thought possible. His boards are unreal!
Life is beautiful today. When I was sitting in that jail cell right before I got sober, I never could have imagined where my life would be today. It's nothing short of a miracle that I'm still alive. Yet, I'm more then alive. I'm thriving! My goal every day is to give back what was given to me. A life of freedom, free from the shackles of addiction. I live spiritually and help others. I let people know how I broke free from my addiction and teach them how to stay sober.
There is nothing more rewarding then that!