It’s been 2 weeks since a single-wave session was cut short from hitting the reef, ending in arguably the most physically painful experience I’ve ever had.
It was a busy day at home and the swell was really large and powerful - which is pretty rare in summer. I remember taking my place on the takeoff bubble with 20 or so other surfers and just going over the top of a few big lumps to feel the energy in the water. It kind of reminded me of Hawaii, pulsing with a 17 second period.
As we all watched the horizon, a thick wall of water stood up in front of us and I swung around to make my intentions known, I was going to try for this one. As I was paddling my hand accidentally clashed with another surfers head or shoulder, I instinctively stopped and turned to apologise and it clicked that I should keep paddling! I can’t pull back on my first wave, in front of everyone and be relegated to the back of the line. So I kept kicking.
The pause in positioning meant I was at the top of the wave instead of underneath it, which is preferable as you can stick to the wave better and not free-fall, which is what I ended up doing.
I remember bouncing and trying to hold the landing, but I couldn’t feel where my board was to grab it. I then tried to penetrate and go through the wave but it cartwheel flipped me feet-first in the direction I was travelling in and sucked me over upside down and backwards, really disorientating.
It was such a violent crack of a slam and I instantly knew my day had changed. You kind of do a physical and mental scan underwater to see if it’s bad-bad or just bad. I knew it was on the serious side. The hold-down was short and as I exploded to the surface I couldn’t get any air in or out of my lungs. I was so winded! I remember this weird groan coming out of me, it sounded so primal.
I waved at my friend Jackson Forbes on the jetski and I felt us lock eyes. It was actually reassuring. He tried to pick me up before the next wave got to me but I couldn’t pull myself up, it felt like the whole left side of my body wasn’t working. Not being able to get on the ski cost me 2 more waves on the head. Jackson circled around again and took me to the boat ramp which is about 1km from where we were. There is no way I could have swam to it, I could barely keep conscious.
I was in the hospital for 4 days, and the next 12 days seem like an unbroken fog of pain. Drips, needles, fluorescent lights, scans, X-rays, MRI’s and even with the best painkillers (fentanyl) - every breath, body adjustment, cough or laugh were SO painful... Absolutely nothing is worse than sneezing though!
It felt like I was laying in a bed hooked up to machines - then I blinked - and 2 weeks had passed. Such a time warp.
Anyway, I’ve started to come good. I’m on a breathing and meditation program that’s really helping the healing process of such a traumatic incident.
The smallest things, like walking the dog around the block are my peak physical endeavours for now.
Thanks to everyone who checked in on me to see how I was coping, I realised that I have such a good support network of caring people. Thanks to Cameron Staunton for filming the wave and to Jackson for the rescue. Big thanks to everyone who has invested in my art while I’ve been incapacitated, and thanks to YOU reading this. You’re a part in my story. x
I'm really fortunate that it wasn't my head or back.