Did Mark Mathews Just Break His Foot At Red Bull Cape Fear?
“If I actually broke my foot, I think I might just give up.”
Red Bull Cape Fear is on and, despite leaving something to be desired in the size department, is providing plenty of entertainment on this Sunday eve/Monday morn.
We’ll have a full recap of the event following its conclusion, but we felt Mark Mathews’ potentially broken foot was worthy of its own post.
For those unaware, Mark ‘Chalk’ Mathews suffered a severe shoulder injury while surfing Jaws in October of 2015, which caused him to miss the most recent Red Bull Cape Fear held at Sydney’s Cape Solander in 2016. After reconstructive surgery and nearly a year of rehab, Mark felt well enough to return to heavier surf.
While towing a mid-sized ledge in [redacted], Australia, Mark got whipped into a wave that stretched a little too far and, well, we’ll let Mark take it from here…
“I was a little too deep on this wave,” Mark said, “and normally I would just pack it and cop the beating. But because I was favoring my shoulder, I tried to avoid it by pulling through the back, which led to getting sucked over the falls. I dropped straight onto the reef, feet-first. Thank God it was feet first.
“As soon as I hit, I knew my leg was broken,” Mark explained. “It wasn’t that painful at first, but I was screaming out of anger. I couldn’t believe I’d hurt myself again. Once the boys got me on the ski, the pain started to set in.
“The doc said if I’d reached him an hour later, I wouldn’t have made it,” Mark explained. “The impact tore everything in my knee – ligaments, tendons, muscles, even the main artery. That artery was just spewing blood internally, so my knee looked like a bowling ball by the time I reached the ER. They performed emergency surgery to stop the blood loss, but the doc wasn’t sure if it would ever properly heal. He said that if the blood didn’t start flowing within the next three days, they’d have to amputate.”
Luckily for Mark, they didn’t have to amputate. Unluckily, he had to go through six-plus surgeries just to get his leg to 50% functionality.
Mark’s big return to the water came last year on the Gold Coast, when during a tropical storm swell, Mark’s pals convinced him to grab the rope at Kirra. It resulted in the video below: perhaps the happiest closeout we’ve ever seen.
Since then, Mark has been slowly working his way back into “proper” surf, which for him means barrels with at least 500 sq. feet of living space.
Chalk, who delivered the concept for Red Bull Cape Fear, wasn’t planning on surfing the event in 2019, but when big wave barnacle Ross Clarke-Jones wasn’t able to make it to the last minute event, Mark decided to take the open slot.
“YES! let’s do this @redbullau!” Mark said on his Instagram when he found out he would be surfing in the event. “Not sure there could be a better way to make a return to surfing big slabs again! Get to share the moment with all my favourite lunatics from around the world!”
Paddling out in Heat 3, Mark sat on the inside ledge while his competitors grabbed the rope. For those not watching, Cape Fear is running a tow/paddle combo in all their heats, with surfers having the option of how they want to catch their waves. Because paddling is so much more difficult, it garners a higher score for the same wave. In other words, a tow 6 could be a paddle 8 or 9.
After a few failed attempts at scratching under the ledge, Mark joined his competitors behind the ski and got whipped into a ledgey eight-footer. Mark hopped the first step, then the second, but by the time he looked up the lip was nearly on his head. Using all the strength left in his toes, Mark scooped under the falling partition and backdoored an impossible tube. He was subsequently derailed by the foamball and thrown over the falls, emerging seconds later in front of the rocks. When Mark hobbled onto the safety ski, he looked like a wounded gull, with left arm lying limp at his side.
“Oh no, said Dave Wassel, Red Bull Cape Fear commentator. “Is his shoulder ok?”
The webcast gave no further indication of Mathews’ condition until eight minutes later when Chalk was whipped into another deep cavern, this time for a make. With local boy Mikey Brennan already way out in the lead, this tube was more of a consolation prize than anything else, but it made us happy to see Mark was still in one piece after his opening slam.
After the conclusion of the heat, Mark returned to the competitors’ boat to chat with Chris Binns, who is contractually obligated to catch a wave after the event.
Mark said all the right things about the wave and the place and the talented local crew, going on for minutes about how happy he was to be back before revealing a horrifying truth:
“I think I actually broke my good foot out there,” Mark said, pointing to his left peg. “Right on the outside. It got caught in the strap. I was all freaked out about my bad foot getting caught in the strap, but it ended up being this one. So yeah, straight to hospital.
“Man, if it’s actually broken I think I’m gonna give up,” Mark laughed. “Another injury? I’d be that spewing.”
If true, a devastating result for our old pal Chalk. But despite what he said, we know he’ll be back no matter what.
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