Local charger breaks his back in the barrel


on the 22nd of April 2010 I pulled into a barrel at a beach break near Cape Town, got drilled into the sand bank and broke my L1 vertebra. I managed to paddle myself back to the beach but could not stand or walk because of the pain. A few surfers that were on the beach came to help me and carried me out of the water while I was lying on my board. Emergency services were contacted and I was airlifted from the beach to Milnerton Medi Clinic where doctors did x-rays and CT scans to find out how bad the damage was.

Turns out I had a 15% compression fracture on my L1 vertebra and thankfully no nerve damage, so there was no need for surgery.

I have to spend 6 weeks in bed with as little movement as possible and have to wear a brace if I need to get up. During this period the bone starts healing itself and gravity is the enemy. So any vertical posture is bad. After the bone has healed. It will take another 6 weeks to get strong. During this period I will focus on getting my muscular strength back while introducing my back slowly to vertical loads. Lots of swimming. At the end of these 6 weeks I will be able to paddle around on my board and surf small waves. It will take another 3 months after this to get back to where I was when the accident happened.

Thank you for all the messages of encouragement and to all the people that helped me on the beach and came to visit me in hospital. You made me feel a lot better.

3 replies
  1. Craig White says:

    Hello James,

    I am a local resident in west beach and body board with my mates who stay in Melkbos. I love the sea and can imagine how frustrated you must be ti get back into the surf.

    Hang in there mate. Focus on getting well and strenthening your body. You never got to where you where without focus. Stick to plan and vasbyt. I hope and pray you will make a speady recovery. All the best and remember to stay strong and focussed. Cheers, Craig

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