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On Monday afternoon, Maui ripper and Pipeline standout Eli Hanneman came close to dying at Pipe. The North Shore’s most famous wave has been on fire for a while now; a run of swell as terrifying as it is perfect. Hanneman has put in time there, but, as the old saying goes, “you have to pay to play.”
His injuries aren’t minor. A lacerated pancreas, a concussion, eight staples in his head, six on his chin, and a shredded body from his shoulders to ankles. The reef under Pipeline is hard and sharp, and it can be a bad thing to hit. In a series of images that can be seen here, Hanneman pulled into what looked to be a good one, only to realize it was going to pinch. He ejected under a heavy lip then impacted the reef, likely bouncing over it a few times under water.
He suspects that his lacerated pancreas didn’t come from the reef, though. “The most significant damage done was actually from my board,” he explained on Instagram. “Under water my board must’ve hit me pretty hard in the upper abdomen causing a laceration in my pancreas, which was causing significant pain to my stomach area.”
Luckily, the doctors were able to operate on him without opening him right up, instead doing the necessary repairs through his stomach. As far as his brain goes, he’s aware of the dangers of concussions and plans on making sure all is fine inside his head.
As is generally the case in wipeouts like this one, it could have ended far worse if it weren’t for the North Shore lifeguards and a handful of surfers who leaped into action. From his hospital bed, Hanneman thanked Brodie Sale, a surfer from the Big Island, as well as the North Shore Lifeguard Association.
“Life is good,” he continued. “I’m so happy to be alive and I now have a completely different perspective on what it means to have a healthy, normal life.”