"All those guys that hit their heads hard at Pipe? I betcha they don’t feel a hundred percent. They may never feel one hundred percent.”
Yesterday, the big-waver Jamie Mitchell woke up, saw a photo of himself kneeling on the back of a jetski’s sled after a wipeout at Jaws two months ago that ripped open his wetsuit on the seabed and shook his brain into a concussion, and wrote an IG post about his feelings.
Hands up for some more punishment… 🤔 In the heat of battle the answer was yes. Looking back the answer should of been NO.
Concussions are no joke and it’s something i think not just big wave surfers but all surfers have to deal with and look at seriously for the future of there brain health 🙏
I’ve still been struggling with some issues since my Jaws wipeout and also seeing @live.fast.die.old struggles as well i think it’s important to look at and understand what these wipeouts may mean for the future generations. Just a thought 👍
Long-term exposure to surfing can lead to depression?
It’s a matter worth investigating.
I called Jamie, who’s just turned forty-three, whom Kelly Slater calls “one of the greatest unknown sportsmen of all time”, at Sunset Beach where he lives with his wife and two kids.
First of all, Jamie says that for the past couple of weeks he’d been having these “weird head rushes, like I was drunk.”
Was it, he wondered, a delayed reaction to the Jaws wipeout and the subsequent concussion?
Was it something that affected other surfers?
“I felt like I needed to post about it, it was a gut feeling. Could it be an important issue in the future?” he says. “With my little experience, then Albee in the Jaws contest, he’s had some real tough times as well, he’s still dealing with it and then I was speaking to Kohl Christenson about it, then Billy Kemper was nearly knocked out in Morocco. You know, it made me wonder. When will we, as surfers, look at concussion and what it’s doing to us.”
How did Albee’s wipeout affect him?
“Albee had a real bad one, man, he was vomiting after the wipeout. He had a really severe concussion. I don’t think he’s been doing too much surfing. He’s definitely been struggling a lot worse than I have been so, you know, it sucks to see. If he was to go out and have a bad wipeout now, what would that mean for him? I think he’s still feels a little bit off-balance, a little off. He did tow into Jaws and then he posted that he would’ve have done it and that it was lucky he didn’t fall.”
In a recent IG post Albee wrote: “I have to wear a helmet and can’t last very long but got a glimmer of hope. Might not be this winter but there will be a day where it all comes together… or not, might just end up broken and brain dead…”
The danger ain’t just in big waves.
“How many times in small waves have you fallen the wrong way and you whiplash your head and you get that flash or the stars? It happens a lot. I don’t think we realise that these concussions or mini-concussions maybe add up over your life of surfing. I don’t get depressed a lot, there’s always been highs and lows, but I do tend to get little depressive thoughts more than ever. Is there a correlation to wiping out?”
Jamie’s got an open mind on the subject. Maybe depression isn’t a side-effect of wipeouts but part of the game of chasing big waves.
“You go through adrenalin highs chasing swells then you go through an adrenalin dump. If it’s a good consistent season, and you’re surfing big waves twice a month, sometimes I’ll find myself being a little bummed out. And I do feel like it’s happening more and more. But is it just life? Getting older? It’s an issue the NFL is finding out about. It might be nice to have a study on it, get surfers who’ve been concussed tested or at least get people talking about it. Look at what happened to Owen? Look at what happened to Dusty? All those guys that hit their heads hard at Pipe? I betcha they don’t feel a hundred percent. They may never feel one hundred percent.”
Jamie thinks back to his own belting at Jaws.
“After that wipeout I wasn’t really coherent. I wasn’t feeling good. I wasn’t seeing straight. But I was frantically looking for my escort boat to get another board. Reflecting on that, dude, that should’ve been it for me. I got lucky. I had another bad wipeout because I was already concussed and fell off on a wave I should’ve made. The photo made me reflect on that and if someone sees my post, sees that I admit I shouldn’t have gone back out, but it’ll make others think more before they do it again.”