Last year, Mark Mathews nearly lost his leg. Thankfully, doctors were able to save it, but his career as he knew it is over. “The way I hit the reef I could have ended up in a wheelchair, so as bad as it is, it could be a lot worse,” said Mathews to The Daily Telegraph. “I can’t really control my foot, so I definitely won’t be able to continue my pro career.” You’ve probably read about his wipeout, but here’s a quick rundown.
Just after sunrise on Australia’s east coast, Mark was surfing a very sketchy wave. There was a big swell pounding its way through, it was low tide, and Mathews was fresh off a shoulder injury that kept him out of the water. His first wave went perfectly. The second wave, though, turned into something unexpected. He got caught on an 8-footer, attempted to punch out of it, and got sucked over, landing feet first on a rock ledge. His leg shattered. On the beach, medics sedated him and straightened his leg out. His leg, though, quickly began ballooning, and a helicopter was called. At the hospital, it became evident just how badly he was injured: a broken leg, a dislocated knee, two snapped ligaments, major nerve damage, and an artery that tore lengthways, filling his leg with blood.Thanks to an incredibly skilled surgeon, Mathews didn’t have his leg amputated, but it was a close call.
Now, a few month on, Mark is still recovering. It’s a long road, and the end of it might not include the life he used to live. “This injury actually looks like it could end my career,” Mathews told The Daily Telegraph. “But I’m not sure yet.”
According to reports, doctors told the 35-year-old Mathews that the nerve damage he sustained will keep him from surfing the way he used to. He is, though, already working on a fix–a custom brace that will keep things steady. “I am speaking to a company about developing a custom brace that hopefully will allow me to be able to surf,” he said. “I’ll figure out a way to do it.”
Unknown to many, though, is the fact that Mathews is also a motivational speaker. His keynote presentation–which he’s delivered around the world–is called Life Beyond Fear. In it, he tells the story of how he became one of the best big wave surfers on earth and how to get back up after falling down. And if history has taught us anything, it’s that Mark Mathews is great at getting back up.