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The adventures of a somewhat injured surfer

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The story of my back injury is one that I’ve told many times. Bude, where I live, is a pretty small town and everyone I bump into on the street asks what happened and how I’m getting on. The community spirit is actually amazing and I’m only just realizing how much I appreciate it.

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 It all happened back in September, in some woods near where I live. I’ve been going to these woods for years and playing around on the rope swings there for as long as I can remember. But this visit was no ordinary visit. I fell from a rope swing onto a tree trunk, burst fracturing my L1 vertebra. That could have been it for my surfing pursuits, but luck was on my side. Despite one of the pieces of bone resting on my spinal cord there was no significant damage and I have recovered almost all of my mobility. So there, in your face surgeon who told me I wouldn’t walk again!

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I am 19 and have lived in Bude my entire life. Cornwall is everything I could ever want really, apart from warm, consistent waves I guess, but that’s all part of the fun. I’ve been surfing for around 7 years and now my whole life pretty much revolves around it; from checking the forecast every 5 minutes throughout the day to saving up for my next board (and convincing my mum that I need it).

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It was thinking about surfing that really got me through the weeks spent on bed-rest. The days just blended into each other and I had nothing else to do other than watch surf films on my ipad. It sucked being away from the sea and hearing about my friends having the surfs of their lives whilst I was stuck in bed, flat on my back, not even allowed to sit up or turn myself. So yeah, there were some pretty dark times, but at least my legs were beginning to work again by this point. My right leg came back pretty quickly and I have full sensation and mobility in it. The left one was clearly much more affected. I still think about the look on my mum’s face when I showed her the tiny little wiggle that I managed with my big toe for the first time.

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After a few weeks, I was able to be hoisted into a wheelchair and then the physiotherapy began. I realised that actually my future wasn’t completely out of my control, so I did everything I could to get the nerves working again in my leg. After a few more weeks they decided I was strong enough to attempt walking and I gave it a go. I just remember being so scared of failing. My legs were shaking so much! But I managed it. Slowly I’ve grown stronger and almost all of the mobility has returned, I can walk and the other day I actually ran on the running machine at the gym.

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I’ve been planning my return to surfing ever since I first put weight on my legs and I am determined that I will ride waves again in some form. I’m currently aiming to try and get back in the water by Easter, as I have to allow my back enough time to heal first. Sometimes I forget that I have actually broken a bone and that I’m still pretty fragile. As I’m landlocked until then, I’ve been getting more into surf photography as a way to be as close to surfing as possible. I think right now I’m more in love with waves then I ever have been before. Pretty much every day I get up, get my gear together and plan where I’m going to shoot (if I can get a lift). The Atlantic has blessed us with a long run of sizeable swells recently so we’ve been able to go to a lot of spots reserved for the winter months. I love North Cornwall in the winter, apart from when I’m caught in torrential downpours. Then I hate it and curse the fact that I don’t live in Aus. But it’s a pretty special place to be and I’m hoping to capture that with my photography. Having a talented bunch of friends really helps with surf photography and the boys have all been stepping it up recently which is just a joy to watch. They’re all keeping me sane actually by treating me just as they did before the accident, so the banter’s just as strong, although they always carry my tripod and camera gear and they go out of their way to drive me around. I couldn’t ask for a better group of mates really.  But I don’t want to be stuck on the side-lines forever so I’m just super stoked to get back in the water. I’m almost counting down the days until I can go back out.

Looking to the future, I’m hoping to return to my normal life; I’m hoping to go back up to North Wales to return to University in September and I want to continue pursuing a career in Marine Biology. I’m actually very excited to go back up to Wales, as the new Wave Garden is being built pretty close to my uni!

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