In December the internet exploded with articles of Big Wave Surfer Tom Butler's spectacular wipeout at the WSL World Tour Event in Portugal. Tom luckily surfaced alive, despite being crushed by tonnes of water and almost ripping off his ear. Today, he recounts what happened on the big day, and what his plans are for 2017 now that he is on the mend.
How did that day start for you?
My day started at about 6:30 A.M, but the event started at 9 A.M. I was in the 4th and last heat of the first round so I arrived at the beach around 9 A.M. as the event started.
Pre-heat I woke up and had a pint of hot-ish water and lemon like I do most mornings. I then did my morning stretch routine that is called "the morning glory" which comprises of 10 movements. My coach and friend Pablo Sisca from Sudeste sports developed this workout for me last June. It's all about reaching out and stretching at the same time so lengthening all your muscles after a nights sleep. It's a fun routine where nothing is held static for too long. After stretching I had an avocado and banana smoothie (homemade) and some nuts and dates. I don't like eating too much before big waves as when you fall or are held underwater for a long time it's important not to have a stomach full of food. You're taking up space and will puke up pretty quick. I just really loaded up on food pre-event. I also made sure I saved my energy by not moving much or that fast the days before the event - just plenty of stretching and focusing before the big day.
I had my younger brother over with his girlfriend and my dad was also in Portugal as the event was called on. It was pure luck these guys were here for the event. Together we all drove to the beach. As I arrived I was surprised by the size of the waves - they were a lot bigger than I thought they were going to be! We parked up and I went over to the contest area. Everyone had to watch from the headland as the waves were too big to see over if you just watched from the beach!
Take us through what happened with that last drop...
I just needed a big score to make it and knew I needed a big wave to get the score. It was an all or nothing wave. In extreme sports it's called "sending it!" I put my head down paddled hard and kept low to my board on the drop in. As I was halfway down the wave I extended my legs and that's when the wind got the better of me blowing hard under my board and stopping my descent down and out in front of the lip. The lip of the wave chased me down and landed straight on my back!
I came up and got a quick breath then the next wave landed on my head, then the next wave pushed me in and under, then another wave pretty much pushed me onto the sand.
Initially I thought I had just winded myself from impact. Then as I landed on the shore I realised I might have done a little more damage. The pain was like I'd been hit diagonally by a baseball bat across the ribs.
I was conscious throughout it all but pretty dazed. As I was being bounced in by the waves I had the added bonus of the board clouting me in the side of the head. Ripping my ear from the inner hole right to the top.
When you reached the sand what was the first thing on your mind?
To try and get back out to sea and make this heat, however after about 30 seconds of being on the sand and realising I'd done more than just wind myself I changed my mind! The doctors helped me straight away. Initially I just wanted to get my wetsuit off from around my neck so I pulled off my inflation vest as that felt tight around my neck but the pain didn't go away once these items were off. The pain just kept getting worse until I was in the back of the ambulance racing to hospital getting some much needed pain killers in my system. 3.5 days later I was out of hospital a new man. For sure an experience that has changed my life and for the better I feel.
Credit: Jack Butler
How’s your recovery going?
Pretty good - I'm using my time out of the water to look at setting up different things around surfing - I can't say much yet. I'm not back at the gym yet on the exercise programme properly but I've been a few times and have been on the running machine, leg weights and have been stretching.
What are you going to focus on next?
I'm hoping I'll be feeling a lot better come February and ready to get back into the exercise programme every day. I want to become fitter than before and hopefully close the winter with a swell over in Ireland. Depending on how strong I feel and how the winter swell ends up will influence whether or not I get another big swell in the Atlantic this winter season. I have a few other projects that I'm currently working hard on progressing. Hopefully this progress will be good and all will be up and running this summer.