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Audio: “I exploded my shoulder at Jaws!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Mark Mathews describes what it feels like to have your arm torn from its socket… 

Earlier this month, the Australian Mark Mathews rode what Shane Dorian would later describe as “one of the biggest and heaviest waves ever paddled into.”

Shane should be Mark’s press agent, don’t you think? It wasn’t true, of course, the euphoria of a good day of big-wave surfing will fill everyone with an orange glow and make even gunmen like Shane Dorian high on hyperbole. But what a ride it was. 

Under Maui’s lemony sunshine, the world’s best big-wave surfers had assembled for the 2015 Pe’ahi Challenge. With only 45 minutes to surf before the start of the event, Mathews promised himself a big north set. He watched Shane Dorian air drop into a sixteen-storey bomb.

A dozen minutes later it was Mathews’ turn.

Too deep, too far out, on too-short and too-thin a board, the Australian wrestled the takeoff, retrieved a submerged nose – all to the delighted shouts of the surfers paddling out for the first heat – but it quickly turned into a disaster movie, his shoulder ripped from its socket, muscles and ligaments and whatever else scrambled.

Bad? Yeah.

Last Tuesday, Mathews went under the knife at a Sydney hospital. The surgeon described the view from inside as an “explosion” and likened it to the mess he’d seen on a motocross rider eight weeks previous.

Here, Mathews describes the day, the wave, the view from sixteen stories up, and what it feels like to be 30 feet under, with a flapping wing, and knowing a second twenty-footer is about to land on your head.