LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Big-wave surfer Shawn Dollar, who broke his neck in four places during a wipeout earlier this week, said in an interview published on Thursday that he immediately lost feeling in his arms and legs and didn’t know if he could make it back to shore.
Dollar, who holds the world record for the largest wave ever paddled into, suffered the neck injuries, along with head trauma, when he struck a large rock after wiping out on Monday while surfing along the Central California coast.
Despite the four fractures, Dollar somehow avoided paralysis as he initially had feared.
“I heard the breaks in my neck, and I immediately wasn’t sure if I was paralyzed,” Dollar, 34, told People magazine in an interview the magazine said was conducted from his hospital bed, where the pro surfer has been fitted with a neck brace.
The married father of two said in the interview that immediately after hitting the boulder, he lost feeling in his arms and legs and faced the daunting task of getting back to shore.
“I barely had the strength to move, let alone get on my board and paddle out and climb over rocks to shore,” he said. “It was just like I was in a cauldron of rocks with waves breaking on me. With a broken neck, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I‘m going to be able to get myself out of here.’ ”
Dollar said he used all the strength he had left to make it back to shore, needing help to walk nearly a mile (1.6 km) through ravines and up steep trails before he could be driven to a local hospital.
He will have to wear the collar for at least two months before beginning rehabilitation for his injuries.
“Luckily the break isn’t structural. I didn’t damage my spinal column,” Dollar told the magazine. “I have to remain really still. I have to keep my movement down to a minimum so that I don’t injure myself to a point where I‘m paralyzed. It’s still a very delicate situation.”
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 (160 km) west of San Diego.
Dollar was in the water with big-wave surfer Sion Milosky at the famed Maverick’s break south of San Francisco in 2011 when Milosky was killed in a wipeout.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb