“Winter Would Slowly Decrease”: Psychological Issues Forced Former Surf Champ to Kick off Booze and Drugs

Published 03/09/2023, 11:00 AM EST

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It all changed after February 18, 2020, for Billy Kemper. The WSL Big Wave World Champion took a long, hard look at his life and decided to make some permanent changes. Kemper suffered a life-threatening injury while surfing in the treacherous waters of Safi, Morocco in 2020. His lifestyle up until then was one of fun and frolic. He was living the dream. But that incident combined with certain situations in his life that he wasn’t paying attention to up until then, suddenly made all things clear to him.

Very recently Kemper decided to relive that harrowing incident. In a YouTube video for ‘T&C Surf Designs’, Kemper opened up about the incident from 3 years ago, how his life has changed since, and the important decisions he made. That included bidding a permanent goodbye to drugs and alcohol.

A life-changing lesson from Billy Kemper


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Kemper said, “My winter would slowly decrease because of a temporary feeling of being high or getting drunk. I don’t believe I was addicted to anything but abuse problems”, ensuring that he did indeed suffer from psychological damages and wanted to change for a while. But the incident in Morrocco finally pushed him over the edge.


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In Safi, Kemper survived a horrible ordeal with a massive wave. While his friends narrowly escaped, Kemper was knocked out. It was as if his legs were snapped into 20 pieces and left him paralyzed. After surviving, Kemper realized that how his family and his kids used to look at him, changed. There is a sense of dread and a feeling of insecurity in them, every time Kemper goes back into the water. Such a realization struck deep into Kemper. And he had a change of heart. He also had flashbacks of his brother, who died at age 18 after a heroin overdose.


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Detailing his drinking problems, Kemper continued, “When I use alcohol or when I use drugs, I use it to a hundred percent capacity. I wouldn’t just like, dabble. When I got out at night, I go out at night”. Kemper left no holds barred in sharing such intimate details.


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However, what’s more impressive, is how he implemented the changes. Kemper started working with fellow surfer Kahea Hart nearly 11 years. And they made a deal of “no drinking, no partying” and getting their priorities in line. Today, Kemper is a much happier person with his four children and wife Tahiti Hernandez. And he is very clear on one thing, he would never go down the road of such addiction ever again.

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Written by:

Tanmay Roy


One take at a time

Tanmay Roy is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. He has done MBA and B.Tech in Civil Engineering.
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