"He didn’t give any indication that he was needing to hold back at all. He went down to this slab with Bobby Martinez. The tide was too low when they first paddled out and it was just them and a couple of boogers. The reef was barely covered. Bede found entry into a couple and he looked like he’s lost none of his paddle speed - he really had to get to his feet quick to make these waves.. I don’t know when he’s looking to compete again but I’d say he’s months ahead of where he’s supposed to be recovery wise," says photographer Andrew Shield.
Bede Durbidge Discusses His Determined Return To Pipeline
11 months and a fractured pelvis later...Bede will surf the Triple Crown.
Bede’s back, baby! Some alliterations are just too good to pass up. After exploding his pelvis on the reef at the Pipe Masters last year, Bede has announced that he’ll be surfing all three events in the 2016 Triple Crown.
“I think Hawaii is the perfect place to come back to competition,” says Bede, who’s currently ensconced with family on Stradbroke Island. “The waves have a lot of power, so it’s actually easier on your body because you don’t have to work for speed. It will also be just under 11 months out of competition, so I will have given my body the chance to recover 100 percent. I’m definitely a little nervous about surfing Pipe if it’s solid. I think once I get out there and get that first wave out of the way I’ll be fine. Instincts always kick in and you don’t have time to think about it anyway.”
Immediately after he got sucked over the falls in round three of the Pipe Masters, Bede underwent emergency surgery and was relegated to a wheelchair for weeks thereafter. But brick by painful brick he’s built himself back into form. To the point where he’s taking off behind the rocks at Snapper and has some big plans for the next few months.
“I’m feeling great,” continues Bede. “Every surf I go for it feels better and better. I get a bit fatigued and stiff, but a couple more months and I’ll be 100 percent.”
It’s become cliché to say that an injury can be a blessing in disguise, but for Bede it was. There really is a silver lining in the dark cloud that almost ended his career.
“Even though it was the worst time of my life physically, it was one of the best times of my life mentally,” explains Bede. “I was able to really engage with my family, give them my full attention and not be worrying about getting ready for the next comp or ducking off for a surf every second of the day. There was definitely some great positives out of a crappy situation.”
“I have replayed the wave I got injured on a million times in my head trying to figured out how I could have changed the situation, but really it was just a freak accident. I think surfing it again in a rashie will help me let go and move on. Once I was told it'd be a 12-month recovery that became my goal, I wanted to surf the Triple Crown and surf Pipe.”
Using his time away from the tour to reconnect with his homeland, his friends, and his family, he’s also been helping his mate John John Florence continue his world title push. Lest we forget, at the height of his power Bede was the ultimate giant killer—just ask Kelly Slater. And while he was unable to surf himself, he reveled in the opportunity to usher double John along.
“I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with John a bit this year and he is such a freak of a talent,” says Bede. “He has shown the world how good he can surf but he wanted to really get after his goal this year and get some consistency in his competitive approach. I act as a sounding board and just throw my two cents in when needed. He really wanted to work on his flow at the points and closing out heats, and you can clearly see that in his surfing now. He is on track and I can’t wait to see it all unfold at the end."
Working with the team at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre, today Bede’s nearly back to 100 percent. Using test fitness results and records going back a number of years, Bede’s been able to chart the progress of his physical rehab and reports that as far as strength and endurance are concerned, he’s pretty much back to where they were prior to the injury. Because of the extreme nature of a broken pelvis, the bone density’s not quite what it was. But doctors estimate it’s just a matter of months until he’s fully healed.
“I had mixed reports in the hospital in Hawaii when I would ask how long it would take me to get back on tour,” he says. “No one would answer my question for the first week I guess because they didn’t know and didn’t want to give me false hopes. Then right before I left Hawaii to get transferred back to Australia they told me it would be about three months [laughs]. I had only just got out of the wheelchair after three months. I think they wanted to lift my spirits and pump me up before I left because they knew they wouldn’t see me again. When I got back to Australia I saw my specialist and he said it would be at least 12. It was really hard to hear but I was glad he was honest.”
Bede’s always been one of the true gentlemen in our sport, and to see his grit and determination to get through this injury that some speculated would take him out of the game completely—or at the very least leave him with a tragic poo stance. Throughout the recovery process Bede’s taken it all in stride.
“Of all things, standing up to pee was one of the most rewarding moments in this process,” laughs Bede now. “I remember when I could finally do it after a few months I was just so excited. Little things like that were so rewarding.”