Big-wave surfer Shawn Dollar, who broke his neck in four places during a wipeout earlier this week, said in an interview published on Thursday that he immediately lost feeling in his arms and legs and did not know if he could make it back to shore.
Dollar, who holds the world record for the largest wave ever paddled into, suffered the neck injuries and head trauma when he struck a large rock after wiping out on Monday while surfing along the central California coast.
Shawn Dollar, surfer of world’s biggest waves, breaks neck in four places
Despite the four fractures, Dollar somehow avoided paralysis as he had feared.
“I heard the breaks in my neck, and I immediately wasn’t sure if I was paralysed,” Dollar, 34, told People magazine in an interview the magazine said was conducted from his hospital bed, where the pro surfer has been fitted with a neck brace.
The married father of two said that immediately after hitting the boulder he lost feeling in his arms and legs.
“I barely had the strength to move, let alone get on my board and paddle out and climb over rocks to shore,” he said. “It was just like I was in a cauldron of rocks with waves breaking on me. With a broken neck, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get myself out of here.’ ”
Dollar said he used all his strength to make it back to shore and needed help to walk 1.6km through ravines and up steep trails before he could be driven to a local hospital.
He will have to wear the collar for at least two months before beginning rehabilitation.
“Luckily the break isn’t structural. I didn’t damage my spinal column,” Dollar said. “I have to remain really still. I have to keep my movement down to a minimum so that I don’t injure myself to a point where I’m paralysed. It’s still a very delicate situation.”
According to the Guinness World Records, Dollar made history when he dropped in on an 18.6-metre (61-foot) wave at the Cortes Bank, a reef 160km (100 miles) west of San Diego.
Dollar was in the water with big-wave surfer Sion Milosky at the famed Maverick’s break south of San Francisco in 2011 when Milosky was killed in a wipeout.