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Durban - Former Durban surfer Michael Tomson, cousin of former world surf champ Shaun Tomson and the man who launched the Gotcha surf brand, has been arrested in the US town of Laguna Beach in California, where he now lives.
Tomson, 58, was arrested on Monday morning for driving under the influence of alcohol and for cocaine possession.
The arrest followed a car accident in which he rear-ended another vehicle with the Mercedes he was driving.
The 65-year-old woman in the other vehicle was taken to hospital with moderate injuries. Tomson was not injured.
He was charged with two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol, possession of a controlled substance, and a misdemeanour count of being under the influence of drugs.
Laguna Beach police Captain Jason Kravetz confirmed the arrest to The Mercury on Thursday night. Tomson was released on $100 000 (R904 000) bail.
“He will appear in court in about six weeks,” said Kravetz.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the incident was not Tomson’s first run-in with the law.
In April last year he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanours - driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in December 2011, and resisting a peace officer in October 2011.
He was also pulled over for driving at an unsafe speed in October last year.
Jean-Marc Tostee, a friend of Tomson’s and MD of Gotcha in Africa and South Africa, said Tomson’s arrest did not surprise him as he lived a colourful, cutting edge, wild child lifestyle, not unlike those of the rich and famous.
“He is an icon, he is like the Mick Jagger of the surfing industry. He is a very creative designer and an edgy-living individual. That kind of incident goes with the territory of that lifestyle.”
Another member of Durban’s surfing community, who asked not to be named, said many surfers owed a lot to Tomson as Gotcha had sponsored them, enabling their success. Regarding his arrest, he said it appeared that Tomson had “some stuff to work out”, but was a great man.
Tomson and his cousin, who lives in Santa Barbara, California, grew up in Durban.
Tomson and Joel Cooper launched Gotcha in the late 1970s, and took it to California in 1978. By 1982, Gotcha was a household name to surfers around the world, according to the company website. Tomson was No 5 in the world surfing rankings in 1978.