Stab Magazine | Kohl Christensen Survives Near Fatal Head Injury At Pipe

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Kohl Christensen Survives Near Fatal Head Injury At Pipe

The North Shore’s finest save BWRAG founder after scary New Year’s Eve wipeout.

news // Jan 4, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Pipeline’s New Year’s Eve swell was Presidential in nature, with bombs from Will Skudin, Koa Rothman, Mark Healey, and others dropped on Instagram over the holiday. One unintended victim was big-wave legend Kohl Christensen, who got his bell rung by a Second Reef beast.

Enduring a near-fatal wipeout, Christensen suffered a head injury when the wave compressed on the shallow inside shelf. Just like they did just a couple of weeks ago when they saved 13-year-old San Clemente grom Hayden Rogers after the Pipe Masters, the North Shore lifeguards responded heroically.

“He cut his head open and fractured his skull,” reported Pipe surfer Casey Goepel on Instagram. “Kohl was swiftly rescued and given the best care possible. After successful brain surgery, he’s exceeding all expectations and we’re hoping for a speedy recovery. We are eternally grateful for his surgical team at Queens. At this time, Kohl needs to rest and heal. Please send him and his family positive thoughts and good energy as he embarks on a strong recovery.”

Quiet and humble, Christensen is one of the true big-wave sages of the North Shore. He’s not a chest pounding kind of guy and would prefer to keep is exploits underground, but that’s hard to do given the waves he rides. I first had the good fortune to meet Kohl while working on a Surfer Magazine story about the “Pipeline Underground” in the early 2000s. From giant Cloudbreak to unnamed reefs in Chile, he helped usher in the resurgence in big-wave paddle surfing. A pioneer of Hawaii’s outer reefs and a certified madman when the Pacific is on the brink, Christensen’s penchant for power is virtually unrivaled around the world—and I say that with no hint of hyperbole. He’s the guy all the other guys look up to.

One-hundred-percent dedicated to the cause, when his friend Sion Milosky drowned surfing Maverick’s in 2011, Christensen held a small gathering at his barn on his off-the-grid North Shore farm. Recognizing the need for more safety training and precautions as the limits of big-wave surfing were expanding by leaps and bounds, this meeting was the beginning of the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group. Today, BWRAG is led by Christensen, Danilo Couto, Brian Keaulana and Pat Chong Tim, along with global ambassadors Greg Long, Gabriel Villaran and Ramon Navarro. Through their training sessions and summits, BWRAG’s influence is responsible for saving numerous lives. 

When young Hayden Rogers went down at Pipe a couple of weeks ago, Keaulana credited other groms in the lineup who had gone through the BWRAG course with saving his life before the professional lifeguards got to him. 

In another case study, the Gudauskas brothers’ Positive Vibe Warriors Foundation has been providing scholarship opportunities for BWRAG training for up-and-coming big-wave surfers. One of the scholarship recipients, who’d been trained in CPR, was able to save his grandfather’s life last year when he suffered a medical emergency. Plainly put, the BWRAG training makes a difference and we all have Christensen to thank for it. 

All reports indicate that Christensen will make a full recovery and didn’t suffer any brain damage or other life-altering injuries. We wish him a smooth, restful recovery. It’s never a bad thing to have a few karma points in the back pocket.  

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