It’s not often surfers turn to the experiences of wide-eyed groms as motivation. We make them sit on the inside and surf the kiddy bowls after school. We heckle them when they get a little too loud in the lineup and never hand them the wave of the day. But one Manhattan Beach surfer has a story and uninhibited energy that can’t be missed. Ethan Ward is a South Bay surfer who, as you’d expect from most boys his age, loves skating and snowboarding, pestering his little sister, Romea and, of course, surfing with his dad. Ask the 10 year old about a life-threatening injury he endured in the fall of 2010 during a surf contest and, refreshingly, he’ll walk you through every detail with an exuberance that could only come from a kid who surfs.
The 2010 Jimmy Miller Memorial Surf Fiesta at El Porto Beach took a scary turn when Ethan, nine years old at the time, asked to go for one last surf after a full day of competing. While Ward paddled out to the lineup an older surfer fell in front of him and lost control of his board. It struck Ethan in the head, sending him straight back to the beach with a massive gash above his eye. A long day in the emergency room and Ethan’s first set of stitches had the Ward family ready to head home. He was cleared by a neurologist and all signs pointed to a sigh of relief and simple “stay out of the water for 3 weeks”. But in spite of having no initial signs of head trauma, the doctor that had been caring for Ethan in the emergency room insisted he stay in the hospital for an MRI. While John and Sig Ward hoped to avoid exposing their son to an MRI at all costs, it was this doctor’s persistence that would prove to save Ethan’s life. The CT Scan showed a fracture in Ethan’s skull and bleeding around the brain that would continue. At nine years old, a boy who had been playing on the beach and competing against friends in The Jimmy just a day earlier would now have to undergo brain surgery.