Renowned big-wave surfer Mike Parsons, catching some practice breaks last Saturday at Ocean Beach before Mavericks on Sunday, severely injured himself after he was knocked down and his head hit the water "really hard." The 47-year-old surfer ended up cracking his C7 vertebra, the largest in the neck, and was saved by his flotation device and by another surfer, who managed to pull him to shore.
Parsons told Surfline:
I was having a blast. About four hours into the session, I was looking for one in, and a nice set was coming. I paddled for the third wave... I thought I was into it, then suddenly realized I wasn't. I took two more strokes and tried to stand up in what turned out to be the lip. I freefell, and remember my feet hitting my board for a second, then my head hit the water really hard. I thought I was paralyzed under wate. I had that crazy tingly feeling. My right arm worked a little bit, but it felt like it was dangling; like it had been ripped off my body 'cause I had no feeling.
He got lucky, and after six weeks in a neck brace, he's expected to make a full recovery.
Parsons is most famous for winning the Billabong XXL competition in 2001, when he was towed into a 66-foot wave at Cortes Bank, off the San Diego coast.