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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Mon, 13 November 2017

Moments after this photo of British surfer Andrew Cotton surfing Nazare in Portugal was taken on Wednesday, the wave broke on his head and broke his back. Here's how it happened.


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SECONDS FROM DISASTER: Andrew Cotton starts to pull up the face. Photo Red Bull Content Pool


Dramatic footage captured the never-ending takeoff - common to Praia de Norte when the wave takes forever to break but when it does it pitches like in a nightmare running from the monster but its catching up with you and suddenly kaboom! - in which Cotton is pitched in the air like a rag doll.

He catapults into the sea and then gets owned by a mountainous mass of white water that swallows him whole. He gets spat out, but is rescued by other surfers and a team of lifeguards, before he is immobilised and taken by ambulance to hospital where it looks like he is going to be okay.

Guys back home like Stefan Dreyer, who bust his back at Donkey Bay last year, and James Taylor, who also had a close call with permanent paralysis at Dunes near Cape Town in 2010, will no doubt have had an involuntary shiver or two at the news.

"I pulled up over a lump. I knew it wasn't going to barrel or that I wasn't going to outrun it, so I just hit the eject button and thought, fuck, I gotta get out of this," Cotton told Magic Seaweed from his Portuguese hospital bed. "Then a whole world of pain happened (bust the L2 vertebra of his lower back). "Feeling pretty sore," he added.

He had this to say on Instagram:

@andrew_cotty
What can I say, I got a little excited this morning and ending up having possibly the worst wipeout impact wise of my life. Thank you to all the lifeguards and crew on the beach who helped stabilise me and do a great spinal recovery, I can’t name everyone but you all did your bit to get me safely to the hospital . Obviously huge shout out to the team: @mcnamara_s for the waves, @hugovau for rescue, company and laughs in the hospital and @polvo32 for the calls on the radio and friendship . I have broken my back but I’ve been really lucky, I’m already looking forward and focusing my energy to get fit and back out there on some more big rollers ! ??????????

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