When the ocean bites back

Surfing, by nature, is a dangerous pursuit. From the moment we leave the safety of the earth’s crust we are indulging in a kind of reverse evolution where creatures completely unequipped for aquatic survival seek out that environment’s most tumultuous conditions. Breaking waves plunder our coastlines with millions of tonnes of force in an eternal battle of elements, giving shape to the beaches and headlands we know and love. Where all this turmoil happens is where we as surfers want to be – in the place where power and energy culminate in walls of water that carry us towards the shore.

Besides the obvious dangers of drowning and sharks the fact that we equip ourselves with hard, often pointy watercraft that react unpredictably when unleashed in the turbulence of whitewater creates a whole new set of potential for injury. Now I’m not trying to be dramatic here but this article is all about those surfing injuries that make us squirm. So here we go.

In my experience two incidents stand out. First was a guy jumping off a pier gripping his new board close to his chest. He launched himself off but neglected to hold the board away from himself and the impact of the water sent the nose straight through the underside of his chin and into his mouth. Blood, saliva and a freshly pierced tongue combined to create a spectacle that Kimbo Slice would be proud of. A potential Darwin Award nominee? Oh yes.

The second incident was an accomplice of mine, Biggie C, who got smacked in the head after one of those classic long walls at Impossibles in Bali. He was having the surf of a lifetime when the board swung back in the turbulence and clocked his right ear. Perforated eardrum – check. Balinese doctor syringed ear drum and proclaimed “ear is broken” – check. Blood oozing from eardrum all the way back to Sydney – yep, a whole box of tissues got used. Biggie lost hearing in one ear and struggled with balance issues for a while but got back into it and still charges to this day.

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