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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The jaw of the Pipeline

The above is a picture of Australian surfer Corey Ziems surfing in a pipeline wave in Hawaii recently. The surfers and the photographers always make them look so amazingly smooth and easy. Of course there are wipe outs, but the surfers are always pop right back up, nothing to it! Well, nothing is easy at all! As Corey Ziems told what had happened to him a few days ago in this Gold Coast report written by Luke Turgeon. He was nearly paralysed while free-surfing the "most dangerous break in the palnet":

"I am definitely lucky," Ziems told The Gold Coast Bulletin from his Currumbin home. "It could have been a lot, lot worse.

"I have had wipeouts there before, so I know it is a pretty dangerous place.

"There are injuries at Pipe all the time. You hear the ambulance go by every day that there is a swell there.

"So you know in the back of your mind that it is a possibility.

"It never really crossed my mind that I could die.

"You don't want to think that when you are surfing the wave, and you try to keep that out of your mind.

"But I definitely know I am lucky and anything could have happened."

According to Turgeon:

Five surfers and photographers have been killed at Pipeline in the past five years, including superstar Tahitian big wave rider Malik Joyeux in 2005.

Ziems, who has been to Hawaii every summer for nine years, was surfing Pipeline last Wednesday when a four-metre wave he was on closed out and slammed him backside first into the reef.

"I remember standing at the Billabong house with a couple of the guys watching it from there, and one of the guys said 'this is one of those days where people get hurt," he said.

"I paddled out and it wasn't a perfect swell, it was still new and a bit scary.

"I knew it was going to be a big wave and I had a feeling it could close out, because a lot of them were.

"But I had a lot of time to assess what was going on.

"I was feeling it sucking up and I was looking down thinking 'OK, this wave is going to close out'.

"But I knew I was going to get a good barrel for a bit as well, and all the photographers were right there in position. I have done it out there before (charged a close out), and I was not at all thinking 'I shouldn't do this because I might get injured'.

"So I went for the barrel, and I saw the photographers dive through the wave as I went past them.

"Then I thought 'it's time to bail out of here'.

"I dove forward, and the wave just grabbed me and sat me up facing forwards towards the beach.

"It felt like there wasn't a drop of water over the reef (when I hit).

"After I landed on the reef I had time to think 'oh shit, am I paralysed right now?' I had time to grab my feet while I was under water.

"I forgot I was under water. I thought first things first, I wanted to check if my legs were working."

Ziems struggled to shore, where he was met by Hawaiian lifeguards and taken to hospital.

Here's the good news we all appreciate to hear:

Scans revealed a compression fracture in his L1 vertebra but no damage to his spinal cord.

He was released from hospital on Saturday and remarkably could be back surfing in as little as eight weeks.

And here's the increditable:

His physical injuries are expected to heal completely, and incredibly Ziems claims he will not carry any mental scars from the accident, and will be travelling back to Hawaii next year for his 10th season taking on Pipeline.

"It is my job and I love doing it," he said.

"Surfing big waves is something that gives me a rush ... I was just unlucky, it could have been anyone."

I guess that's something only real surfers can understand. Good luck, Corey! And God speed on your total recovery!

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