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Spate Of Surfing Injuries Unveil A Scary Reality

By Dan Hutton on January 21, 2011 in News

It’s viewed by many as a peaceful, laidback pastime undertaken by blonde, long-haired, toned and tanned individuals who harbour hardly a care in the world, so it may surprise many just how dangerous surfing can be.

Recent incidences both at home and abroad involving a few local and out-of-town frothers only serve to illustrate the sport’s potential pitfalls, results of which can be life threatening.

In mid December, Tracks magazine editor and Bondi resident Luke Kennedy suffered a horrific wipeout at Hawaii’s Sunset Beach that could easily have claimed his life. Having only arrived in Hawaii a matter of hours earlier, Kennedy’s first surf ended abruptly when his board snapped and impaled in is neck in the heavy shore break.

If not for the presence of legendary big-wave rider and jet-ski expert, Ross Clarke-Jones, and the quick action from a doctor who was on the beach, he may not have survived.

After being rushed to the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, Luke was operated on and hooked up to a breathing apparatus until his throat healed. All reports suggest there will be no long-term damage.

Closer to home at Tamarama, French surfer Chris Cardrona who is an employee at STM Snow, & Skate in the city, took a nasty knock to the head from the board of another surfer just days before Christmas. While the initial diagnosis seemed to indicate that only a couple of stitches would be necessary to tidy things up, the injury turned out to be far more serious. A fractured skull and swelling on the brain meant that Cardrona had to undergo major brain surgery, which involved removing a section of his skull to alleviate the pressure on his brain. At the time of writing, Cardrona was unable to speak in his native French tongue due to the brain trauma and was about to undergo further surgery to repair his skull. He will soon have to return to France where he will undergo an intense period of rehab to essentially re-learn how to speak French.

Less than a week later, 12 year-old Clovelly grommet Lachlan Lam (son of former rugby league star Adrian Lam) found himself in the emergency ward having tangled with the fins of his own board while holidaying on the Central Coast. The fin slash to his upper thigh required 40 stitches and missed his femoral artery by just over one centimeter. Had the artery been severed the outcome could have been far more serious.

The moral to the story? Exercise caution out in the surf, especially if you’re a beginner. If your surf skills (duck diving, board control, wave riding etc.) aren’t up to scratch avoid the surf altogether, stick to the smaller wave areas or at the very least ride a softboard rather than a potentially lethal fiberglass stick. Advanced surfers also have a responsibility and should exercise caution at all times and take every measure to avoid hitting other surfers.

At the end of the day, everyone is out there for a good time so take care, respect others, obey the rules of the surf and have fun!