How I Got A Concussion While Surfing

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Everything went black. When the light returned, my head was spinning and I was overcome with dizziness. This is not good, I’m not in good shape I thought. Then I turned around and my heart sunk.  Building up and moments from crashing down on me was another wave with about a 12 ft face on it. A wave that big, breaking right in front or on top of you will smash you violently end over end down into the ocean. In normal circumstances, facing several of these waves back to back can be terrifying. On Monday, I had to face them after a concussion. 

1
It all started Monday while me and a few buddies were out at our favorite surf spot. We were all hanging in the same general area waiting for the next set of waves to arrive. If a really big set comes, the waves break before, or right as they reach us. This is exactly what happened. A large set of four waves came in and we all got smashed around by them, but made it out alright, like usual. I was a bit winded because you spend sometimes five seconds or more underwater each wave and they come one right after another. After the four waves passed, we didn’t have more than ten seconds of rest before another big set started coming in.

2
This set was out even further and I believe it was only three waves, but I can’t remember the exact details. The first wave probably had a 12 ft face on it and it was going to barrel right on top of me like a hammer hitting a nail. Recognizing this, I swam and paddled as hard as I could and at the last moment pushed my body board off to the side and dove forward as far as I could to get the upper half of my body through the breaking lip of the wave. I made it, but as the wave passed it sucked my body board back over the falls like a rubber band as far as it would stretch. By the time I was able to swim back up to the surface, the wave released my board and it came flying back at me at mach nine and smashed me in the side of the head. 

3
Everything went black, then the light reappeared and the world was spinning. I had just suffered a concussion.  My vision was now blurry and I could barely put thoughts together. Make sure someone knows what just happened I thought to myself. I turned and moaned to my buddy next to me that I had just got hit really hard on the side of the head and that I was super dizzy, but there was nothing he could do. Realizing that I was going to have to get myself out out of the situation, I turned around only to see another huge wave coming. 

The second wave after the concussion really scared me. I knew I wasn’t in good shape, and there was no getting past the wave before it broke. As it peaked and the 12 foot mountain of water started to come down in front of me,  I ditched my board and dove down as far as I could. Fortunately the lip of the wave hit right in front of me and not on top of me. The difference was significant as another major blow to the head by the lip of that wave could have been it for me.  I don’t remember what happened next but I remember coming back up and seeing another giant wave. 

4

Paddle, breath, paddle, breath, paddle, breath and dive. I was in survival mode. This was the seventh wave in less than a minute and a half, I was hyperventilating, everything was spinning and my vision was blurry.  Again I dove down as the wave smashed down in front of me and sent me spinning downward before finally letting go. As I reached the surface with salt water in my eyes I opened my right. Always the right eye first, like a periscope to see what was next. This time the ocean had leveled off.

I gotta get out of here, I gotta get out of here, I moaned to my buddy as I robotically paddled in the direction of safety. Everything was still spinning. I can’t get hit by anymore waves I thought as I turned and looked out into the ocean. That’s when I saw an even bigger set of waves coming, about 20 seconds away. I immediately stopped paddling in the direction of my planned escape and started paddling straight out into the ocean. I needed every bit of that 20 second warning of the latest set of waves. As they approached me, they were just like a mountain of water that was getting steeper by the second. I made it over all four of the waves and was by this time over 100 yards away from shore.

Safely outside the breakers now, I paddled towards the boat ramp, where we get in and out of the water. I thought I was by myself, but a single stand up paddle surfer who had paddled deeper to escape the big waves paddled along side me most of the way back in. That was comforting.  All in all, with my detour out to sea, and swimming against the current, it took me about fifteen minutes to get back to shore. But I made it.

That night I was feeling really lethargic and was having a little difficulty speaking clearly, almost like my tongue was tied. Also, my brain was operating almost like it was in a slower gear. The clinic out by our house was closed, and because I didn’t have any more severe symptoms, I waited until the next morning to go in and get checked out by the doctor. After the doctor checked out my ear and ruled out an ear drum perforation, and asking more about my symptoms, he said that I had suffered a concussion. He then went on to explain that the first blow to the head that causes the concussion is dangerous, but a second blow to the head after someone gets a concussion can be fatal.

Immediately the image of those last two waves who’s wrath I so narrowly escaped popped into my head. It could have ended much, much worse and it really caused me to be extra grateful to be alive.

What did we have for dinner last night, my son asked that evening after the doctor visit. He had been doing research and was checking up on me.

Burritos, I said.

Good, he said with a big grin as he walked off.

Yeah…I agree.

(Note: The four pictures  in sequence above are from earlier this year, and are of me padding up and over a 12 ft wave in the exact spot as I got the concussion this week. In the last picture, where the wave hits the water, I was just a few feet in front of where the lip when it hit. I had to get passed two of these waves after the concussion. This last picture I hope gives a glimpse of why I surf. It’s one of the most enjoyable recreational activities I’ve ever had the privilege to experience.)

onawave
 

13 COMMENTS

  1. Hi,

    Sorry to hear about your recent injury. Your body uses Vitamin C to repair itself and if I were you, I’d start taking at least 15 grams (28 grams = 1 ounce) immediately with magnesium, cayenne pepper, and fish oil. Most Americans are deficient in magnesium; your need for it goes up under stress. Cayenne pepper improves circulation and can help move more Vitamin C into your tissues because of its bioflavinoids. As for fish oil, most Americans are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids. Since your brain is partly composed omega 3 fatty acids, using fish oil is kinda like repairing a brick wall with bricks.
    Hope that helps, Christine

    • Thanks man. Yeah, it’s super fun. We probably shouldn’t have been over in that spot surfing on that day. The waves were really close together, 9 seconds which makes for really crazy, unpredictable conditions. So there are ways to control the risk a bit, but no way to really take them completely away.

  2. OH, my goodness! Your story was so vivid, I felt like I was reliving it. Such an experience sure makes you think about how fragile life can be. I can imagine the sheer joy of such a sport but I do hope you don’t have that experience again. The first comment here was offering health advice and I want to share something as well. Aloe gel is one of the most powerfully healing products. I hope you keep some around for the whole family. Thanks for sharing your powerful experience. I know it must have made you and your family feel much gratitude that the outcome wasn’t much different. Despite not connecting that much and not being aware of you long term, it would certainly affect me to hear that something worse happened to you. I thank God for angels on assignment.

    • Thanks Alena! It’s a good reminder that life is short and you never know when your time will come. Even taking part in normal activities such as riding a bicycle or driving to work, something can happen in a moment. Someone in Portland went to bed the other night and a tree fell down and crashed through her roof and she passed away. Life should not be taken for granted!

  3. I appreciate the info you offer about buying appliances. My repairman also said buy Whirlpool. where is your business?

  4. We bought used washer and dryer from you in the past and we’re pleased with purchase. Need a new dryer do you still in Oregon area or can you please recommend someone to me?

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