Former Pro Surfer Held for Suspicion of Drug Dealing

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Michael Tomson in a 2009 interview with Transworld Business.

Michael Tomson in a 2009 interview with Transworld Business.

A retired professional surfer and co-founder of the Gotcha surfwear brand was arrested for suspicion of drug dealing after Laguna Beach police discovered $2,000 worth of cocaine in his home last week, police said Monday, June 22.

Police charged Michael Elliot Tomson, 60, of Laguna Beach, with felony possession of narcotics for sale after conducting a 7 a.m. probation check at his home in the 21000 block of Mar Vista Avenue. A scale, baggies used to package cocaine for sale and 52 grams of cocaine were seized, said Sgt. Tim Kleiser, who provided the street value estimate.

While the new charges carry a $25,000 bail, Tomson’s probation officer placed a hold on him due to the new arrest, Kleiser said.

In 2013, Tomson was charged with two felony DUI counts, and suspicion of cocaine possession, following an early-morning traffic accident in Laguna Beach.

Court records show Tomson has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement beginning in 2010.

A native of Durban, South Africa, Tomson finished fifth in the debut world pro surfing championship of 1976, says the Encyclopedia of Surfing. Two years later, Tomson emigrated to the U.S., moving to Laguna Beach, where he co-founded Gotcha in 1978 with Joel Cooper, selling swimming trunks from a Laguna Beach garage. The pioneering Southern California surf wear company transformed a cottage industry with edgy design and would become a dominant player in the market.

“Gotcha was a risk taking idea factory, a creative foundry that took gambles and broke rules. It created a blueprint that action sports brands still follow and its designs, widely considered to be a creative benchmark, are still referenced throughout the industry today,” says Amazon.com’s summary of “Goin Big: Gotcha and the Evolution of Modern Surf Style,” author Kevin O’Sullivan’s 2008 book.

Known for its flashy board short designs and aggressive marketing, Gotcha’s sales topped $65 million by 1987.

But when the wave crumbled by the mid-’90s, Gotcha’s founders in 1997 sold the company, now a Perry Ellis division that licenses the Gotcha brand that is sold in retailers such as Sears and Kmart.

Tomson served as the second president of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, based in Dana Point, from 1990 to 1999.




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About the Author
The author is the editor of the Laguna Beach Independent. Prior to taking the job in 2005, she worked previously as a reporter at five daily newspapers, including the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa, the Daily News of Los Angeles and the New York Times. Reach her by emailing [email protected]
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  5. mario sotello

    Mike Tomson has been on the ragged edge for years–many arrests, crashes and his dope use has put him in a sorry state. His only chance is to get clean and stay away from temptation, a difficult task for someone who flouts the law and has too much money and too few ethics. His life is a sham and a stark contrast to his cousin Shaun Tomson, a well-regarded surfer/writer who lives a good life free of narcotics and the fast life as exemplified by the less-than-decent MT.

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