Senior Editor
Just Before His Accident at Pipe, We Talked to Kohl Christensen About the Dangers of Big Wave Surfing

Kohl lives life the right way. And we talked about that, too. Photo: The Inertia

The Inertia

This week’s One Beer podcast had a little more  immediacy to it. Just a week or so after I sat down with with Kohl Christensen, he suffered a scary brain injury at Pipe after impacting his head when he pulled into a closeout barrel (the type of wave he’s probably caught hundreds of times before). Thankfully, following surgery in Honolulu, he’ll be able to make a complete recovery. It was kind of crazy that he was talking me through the conditions as he assesses them before deciding to go out. I just happened to catch him on a night he was watching the sunset with his daughter and close friends.

“I was hoping to paddle out,” he said, “the swell’s kind of dropping. But it looks kind of wild still. If it looks somewhat doable, and I see some good ones, I’ll get out there, but right now I’m not seeing any good ones so I think I’m going to keep drinking, hang out and watch the sunset, hang out with my daughter.”

Just days later Kohl would be in the hospital:

“Dec. 31, 2019 would have been my departure from the physical world,” he wrote on Instagram. “My last cognitive interaction with my wife, daughters, family, friends and world. If not for the immediate response by my rescuers @andrewlogreco , @kaiborggarcia , @northshorelifeguardassociation , @_danielrusso_ and all the others, I would never have seen 2020 or beyond. Serendipitous as it may sound, I am seeing the world clearer than ever. 5 days in the hospital. Finally home after the incredible performance and work by the Queens neurosurgery and trauma team. Removing blood between brain and skull, suturing the ruptured meningeal layers and installing metal plates to correct the fracture. Now, seeing my daughter’s smiles, laughter and subtle movements. Different than a week ago. They change so quickly at this age. Hearing my wife’s voice and watching her gentle movements around our home, our dog’s love and that morning light warm the pictures on the walls. Family, friends. Wow. The prayers and love that flooded in the day of the accident and continue to come are the reason I am still here. Thank you. My reflection on all of this begins. An abyss I can barely begin to fathom. I am aware and present. Motor skills intact. Feeling fortunate, blessed and so very grateful. Let the healing process begin 🙏💜. Happy new year! “

I was happy to be able to talk with Kohl regardless, but his reaction to the incident simply reaffirmed my thoughts on him before the accident anyway:  he’s just a really humble, centered human. We talked about his Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (ironically), his expertise in solar energy, and some of his future projects including a class on sustainable living (find his email in the podcast for details). Kohl is one of my favorite surfers, not just because of the way he rides waves, but the way he looks at life.

The One Beer Podcast is presented by 805.

Listen to our podcast with Jamie O’Brien, here, Nathan and Ivan Florence, here , our talk with Billy Kemper, here, and our sit-down with Ben Gravy, here. Our conversation with Mark Cunningham can be heard here. Edited by Ryan Trautwein


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