CLOUDBREAK, Tavarua/Fiji (Tuesday, June 11, 2013) - If each event on the Dream Tour was running for president I would vote for Fiji. I’m pretty sure everyone would. It’s the event that best fits the title of ‘ the Dream Tour’. Every event has its positives and is great in its own way, but Fiji ticks all the boxes. Tropical islands, warm water, welcoming locals, and real waves. Waves that run along reefs that look like they have been hand chiseled by some kind of ancient surfer god to create perfect water formations . (I picture him to look like Michel Bourez). Waves that let you do that barrel thing where you go inside the wave. Waves that let people do jumps and turny things. But they are waves that are serious. Waves that can hurt you. They can hold you down till you turn blue. Or they can pin you to the bottom and slice you up till you turn red. But they are still waves where the reward outweighs the risk by a million times.
A scenic helicopter flight from a beautiful Fijian island to Nadi airport, straight to lying in a bed on a private Learjet eating chocolate next to a hot chick bound for Australia. 99% of the time that sentence would lead to an epic story. Unfortunately I’m here for the wrong reasons. The private jet is a Careflight medivac jet, I’m lying down because I’m strapped to a hospital bed, and the hot chick is a doctor.
2 days ago I was dodging 6 foots lips at Restaurants, today I wouldn’t be able to dodge a punch from the queen.
Restaurants can be one of the most perfect waves in the world but with a few degrees change in the wind direction and few inches less water in the tide, it can turn into the most dangerous 4 foot wave of your life. Its not the size of the wave that makes it scary, it’s the lack of water between you and the reef that’s waiting for your donation of skin.
12:30pm, 4-6 foot windy Restaurants. Heat 6 Glenn Hall v Jordy Smith. Again!
I have surfed against Jordy every event this year so far. Snapper in round 1 – he came back in the last five minutes to get out of a combo and beat me. Bells round 2 – he opened a can of whoop ass on me. Rio round 5- we had a really good battle but his airs were too good. When I saw I drew him in round two of the Volcom fiji pro I was stoked. I really like jordy and love the way he surfs, but I wanted payback. Being goofy against natural foot, I fancied my chance highly in the tricky left hand barrels out Restaurants.
Kaiborg was on the ski before my heat and said to me ‘ I know who my money is on. You got this!’ That was one of those small things that people say that give you that tiny little injection of confidence. I stroked off up towards the takeoff zone to hold the inside position ready for revenge. We both started with small scores struggling to find a decent barrel. 15 minutes remaining Jordy slides into a set and posts the first real score of 8 points. The second wave of the set allows me to get a quick little takeoff barrel, two average turns before kicking out to hold priority. The scores are calculated and an 8.8 is my required score as we sit and wait for the next sets to roll down the reef. Times ticking away but I’m still confident I can find the right wave, get barreled off my nut and take the lead. Around 7 minutes remaining the perfect looking wave marches towards the reef. It’s still 50 meters away and Jordy asked ‘ are you going bru?’ (I’m not really sure if he said bru but he’s South African so he probably did) My reply ‘fucking oath!’ We were right at the top of the reef where coral heads poke out of the water basically just to try and screw with your head. They pop up and say ‘hey look at me, I’m sharp as fuck so don’t fall off’. Plan A to get the 8.8 was to takeoff at the top of the reef and get barreled along the whole first section, through the second section and get a 10. At a wave like Restaurants this isn’t wishful thinking. On the right wave out there you can barreled for an hour and a half, Fijian time. This wave approaching looked like the exact wave I was waiting for, the perfect line, the perfect size, no chops up the face. This was my first chance at posting a real score. Knowing I was deep I was ready for rocks to submerge right in front of me. The wave steps out and I do my best attempt at a bunny hop wheelie over the step. As My tail lands back in the water I lose all the speed and momentum I needed to drive through the long restaurants drainer. I pull up under the lip hoping the wave slows down enough to let me catch up. Unfortunately it was like a peak hour train leaving Central station and wasn’t waiting for anyone. I was left too far back in the tunnel watching plan A funnel down the tracks with out me.
Falling off that wave and Knowing you blew an opportunity to get the score was heartbreaking. Getting sucked over the falls on the same wave was backbreaking.
Going over the falls backwards is the most dangerous way to fall. Whenever I see someone in the surf wipeout like that I cringe and hope they surface unharmed. Falls like that are what can lead to severe injuries. I fell backwards with the lip and landed right onto mr coral head. The sharp bastard drove into my back as the momentum of the wave pushed me towards the shore. That combo left me wrapped around a coral head doing the under water scorpion. While the Pacific Ocean teamed up with the coral head and was doing some kind of jiu jitzu move on me, I was under water wishing I had have done some more yoga so my heels could touch the back of my head. Eventually I was dragged free from the rock but my board and legrope got stuck around the coral head. Luckily I was moving so fast that my legrope eventually snapped and I made it to the surface.
That would be my last opportunity. I had hyperextended my back and could barely move. Floating in the lineup buckled and winded. Fortunately my board popped up next to me and was able to shuffle onto my board and flap my way out of the impact zone. My Fiji event was over and Jordy wins again.
Lying on land wondering how bad my injury was was frustrating with the possibility of missing events. But the thought that kept playing through my head was could I have made that barrel. I hate losing. And like all surfers, I hate blowing a good wave.
Surfers travel to all kinds of remote places to score uncrowded waves. The smaller the number of people in the water the better, until someone is injured. Its the risk you take when surfing in remote places. I was fortunate enough to have Doctor Alan Mackillop and Physio Chris Prosser here working at the event who were there to help me from the moment I returned to Tavarua.
Under the directions from Doctor Alan I was flown in a chopper back to Namotu as a precaution to minimize any movement that could cause any more damage. The docs words were, ‘backs and spines aren’t something you mess around with’, so I did as I was told. The doc decided it would be safest to get scans and X-rays ASAP so arranged a chopper to pick me up in the morning. The chopper would take me to Nadi airport where the Careflight qld medivac jet was waiting to pick me up and fly me back to Australia for the scans. It felt all a bit over the top at the time, but I don’t think I could have bounced in a boat to the mainland then sat in a jetstar seat all the way back to Aus. Sitting down for any longer than 10 mins felt like I had daggers in my spine. So I really appreciated the effort the doctors, the ASP and the contest director went to take all the right precautions. That’s a sign of how the new ASP will roll next year. Professionally with all functions of real sport. I especially appreciate the hot female doctor they sent and letting Ace fly home with me too for some company. Besides the minor details of injuries, doctors and medical equipment, We were living like rock stars on a private Learjet from Fiji with hot chicks and loud music.
I find myself now lying in the John hunter hospital staring at the breakfast tray wondering what the boys are having for breakfast back on Namotu. Beggars can’t be choosers but I’m pretty sure this breakfast was made the same year jake Patterson had his last had a haircut.
I wish I made that wave. I would still be in the comp. I would still be in Fiji. I would be eating pancakes talking crap with the boys around the table drinking multiple cups of coffee. Instead I’m sitting here sending snapchats to them of the lady in the bed next to me snoring like a rhino.
I’m not sure how other sports operate but the whole surfing tour is like a family. Mick Fanning, Adam Melling and Ace packed my board bags. Julian carried my bags to the chopper and Parko, Otto, Wilko, and a bunch of the boys walked me to the chopper to see me off. Even if it was out of jealousy getting a chopper and a Learjet home, it was still really awesome of them.
Then to wake up today and see all the messages on Instagram and twitter makes you realise that the top 32 aren’t just competitors, its one big family.
The conclusion of my injury is I have fractures in vertebrae’s L 2 3 and 4. Painkiller cocktails and Couch bound for a couple of weeks, and out of the water for 6 weeks. 6 weeks at home with the family and plenty of rehab. This time I payed the price. I don’t regret anything though,the reward if I made that wave would have been so sweet and I would take that chance again today if I had it. And I would still vote for Fiji for president. I will heal and be back on the horse ASAP. I’m home now with my beautiful wife and daughter who will look after me better than anyone.
Thanks everyone for the well wishes and hopefully I’ll be ready for Huntington.