Last weekend, Jarrod Gibson, owner of JG Boards and one of the bodyboarding industries leading shapers broke his back for the second time, getting into trouble during the latest run of swell at Box Beach near Newcastle.
“We had driven up and down the coast that morning. We checked Indies but it wasn’t great and decided to go out at Boxy.” Says Jarrod.
“It was mostly closing out, but every now and then there were these crazy double ups that were throwing out real hard. I had been surfing for about 2 hours and only caught about 4 waves. Everyone else had pretty much gone in.
“A set came through and I paddled into the first one and thought I had enough time but then it just dropped out on me and I went top to bottom. I could see it going way below sea level on the way down and pretty much saw dry sand so I bailed my board and curled up into a ball.
“I got flipped and hit the bottom so hard all my air got pushed out. I immediately knew I was in a bad place.
“I was rag-dolled for ages and didn’t even get a breath before the second wave of the set hit me. I ripped my leash off and couldn’t do much else.
“I popped up, got a breath, and all I could see was this huge diamond right behind me. The third one musta been twice the size of my first wave. I just held my breath and hoped for the best.
“The third one pushed me up to the sand where Toby Read, Kane Brewer, Anthony Thurlow and a few other guys had rushed down to help. I was in the shallows and could feel my legs but didn’t have any power. There was no way I could get out of the water. I couldn’t crawl, I couldn’t lift my head. I honestly feel if there was another one I wouldn’t be here.
“It’s a bit of a blur from there. Toby and the guys were absolute heroes. I can’t thank them enough. They got me onto the beach and looked after me until the Ambos arrived after about 15 minutes. I got the green whistle and was loaded onto the spinal board and taken to the hospital.”
One of the sports true characters, Jarrod has always pushed the limits both in and out of the water; a 25m cliff jump at aptly named ‘Snapper Point’ back in 2005 went horribly wrong and landed him in hospital with compressed spine and fractured T10 to T12 Vertebrae.
This time the severity took a little longer to diagnose.
“I had the MRI and the results took ages. It wasn’t looking good. I was told I might need surgery.” Says Jarrod.
Fortunately surgery was avoided, but the injury was still serious.
“I’ve crushed the L1 vertebrae. It’s an even crush, which meant I avoided surgery, but it’s also separated and slightly displaced from the above and below vertebrae. It should correct itself.
“I’m looking at about 2 years of physio and rehab. I want to do it properly. The last time I came back after only about 18 months, but it was too early. I’ve got movement now and am walking with the help of a frame, so it’s a start.”
When asked what the future holds, Jarrod was optimistic.
“I’ve got Johnny (Cruickshank, District 5 owner) kindly helping me out with JG Boards and keeping that going while I’m out of action. We still have heaps of plans for this year, including Jase Finlay’s film – Project 187. Tahurai Henry (Tahiti) and Winston McCall (Parkway Drive) will be coming out to work on it too.”
On getting back into the water, Jarrod was a bit more reflective.
“It’s different now with a family to look after. I’ve got a wife, a young son and a business to run. I will be back eventually but I won’t be surfing anything over 3 foot. haha.”
Sure, Sure, Jarrod. Get well soon.