Shawn Dollar, surfer of world’s biggest waves, breaks neck in four places

Top big-wave surfer Shawn Dollar broke his neck in dangerous conditions off the central coast of California and remained in hospital on Wednesday, his management company said.

Dollar, who holds the world record for the largest wave ever paddled into, was in stable condition after breaking his neck in four places on Monday, according to a statement from the Titans of Maverick’s surf contest.

“I’m so thankful I’m alive and present today. Being surrounded by my loved ones through this time has been paramount for me,” Dollar said in a statement issued by the contest.

“I’m so grateful for those who where there in my scariest and darkest hour and who acted on my behalf to get me to safety and reach the hospital in time,” he said. “I’m thankful to learn that even with these severe injuries I will make a full recovery.”

The 34-year-old father of two was cared for by surfers and then rushed to a hospital emergency room, Titans of Maverick’s said. Reports said he had not suffered any paralysis.

According to competition organisers “a strong south swell reportedly produced strong waves with unfavourable mixed conditions” that put the pro surfer “in a critical scenario that caused him to act accordingly to protect himself”.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Dollar struck his head on a rock.

“He got really lucky, as lucky as the doctors have seen,” big wave surfer Darryl “Flea” Virostko told the paper.

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According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dollar made history when he dropped in on a 61-foot (18.6-meter) wave at the Cortes Bank, a reef 100 miles (160km) west of San Diego.

Dollar was in the water with big-wave surfer Sion Milosky at the famed Maverick’s break in 2011 when Milosky was killed in a wipeout.

“I had trouble with that for more than a year, because Sion’s death made me totally aware of the cost,” Dollar told the San Francisco Chronicle in a 2013 interview. “And now I think about drowning every single day. That’s why I’m so focused on safety. Because when the day comes I’m going to go on the heavy waves.”

Maverick’s, named for a dog who joined early surfers in the water, is a celebrated but hazardous surf spot just north of Half Moon Bay known for waves topping out over 80 feet (24 meters).