Stab Magazine | Recounting A Near-Death Experience At Gnaraloo

Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy Will Be Broadcast Live On June 21st and June 22nd from 5 PM - 10 PM PDT

21 Views

Recounting A Near-Death Experience At Gnaraloo

 “I felt myself falling head first with the lip. Then bang. Lights out.” – Luke Wyllie.

news // Aug 24, 2017
Words by Video
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Three weeks back Luke Wyllie suffered a wipeout at Gnaraloo. It was low-tide and Luke went over the falls. In return, he was gifted with life threatening injuries and will spend the next three months in a body brace. Stab dialled up Mr Wyllie to check in on his recovery and hear his account. It’s worth noting that Luke lost consciousness. This is his recollection of what happened from 9am Sunday to 4am Monday.

“I’m out of the bed,” Luke tells Stab. “It’s a big relief to be semi-mobile again. They have me in this pretty restrictive chest brace that reaches right down to my belly button. I have to wear it for three months. Shower in it, sleeping in it. It’s a nightmare.”

SI 6289

Photographer: Mike Riley

Here’s how it went down:

“I was up at Exmouth and knew there was swell around,” Luke tells us. “I flew into Gnaraloo early Sunday morning. The tide was really low; I thought, ‘fuck it’. The idea was to go out and wait for the tide to fill.”

“It’s wild when it gets low out there. When you paddle out your hands and fins scrape the reef. It was really empty when we got there, just a few boogers and a handful of surfers. I got one six-footer with a decent little pit. Then a few deadly ones rolled through. It was sketchy. I knew when it filled in, it was going to be off the charts. I thought, for now, I’ll just surf the end section.”

“Then I got this little one and saw the reef really sucking up in front of me,” he continues. “I was too late. But already on, I had to go. It bottomed out, went all ledgy. I pig dogged and went straight over the falls thinking ‘this is bad’. I fell head first with the lip. Then bang. Lights out.”

“I hit head first. I don’t remember any of this, but I know I was badly rag dolled. Matt Allen told me later I went over the fall on the next wave as well.”

“All I remember is laying face down in the water and not being able to move. Apparently there this thing called spinal shock. It can last up to a minute after a decent knock. This head injury had compressed my spine and back.”

Luke sustained a deadly combination of injuries including two fractures to his cervical spine, four fractures in his thoracic spine, his T3 vertebrae crunched to 50 percent between T2 & T4, an orbital fracture and a large laceration to his head.

  head

“Being temporarily paralysed isn’t such a big deal when you’re on the land,” says Luke. “You’re just lying on the ground. But, while in the water, I remember there thinking ‘fuck, don’t suck in any water’. I couldn’t get my head or arms up… nothing was working. I have little memory of that impact. I pulled my head above the water. But couldn’t see anything. Blood pouring was out my head, just pissing into my eyes. Here’s a little snap shot of it. It’s sort of funny, but not funny.” 

surf blood clip

“As I came up I could see this guy, Matt Allen about 20 metres away. He started bolting over to me. I was struggling trying to hold onto my board. Matt helped me up like a little kid, I could not stay on my board. I was heavily concussed. Matt pushed me straight into a foam ball. Fortunately, when it’s low tide this wave goes all the way to the beach, It’s about 150 metres. It took me right to where the carpark is.”

“At top of the rocks, there was this chick walking her dog. She just looked at me and started screaming. I was thinking ‘keep it to yourself!’ It was probably like a horror movie for her. So much blood. That didn’t do much for my confidence.”

“I put my hand up to my head and felt it go straight in. I thought I had cracked my skull and was touching my brain. This Irish physiotherapist named Eamon Molloy, who based himself at caravan to chase Tombies, rushed over to the car when I got out. Everyone was in shock and he didn’t know any of us. So no one was listening to him.”

“After I was placed in the back seat of Matt’s Hilux. I realised there was something serious going on in my neck. I couldn’t move it. When you leave an injury for five to ten minutes, you go stiff. It was unbearable. Then it became so tough to breathe with all this pressure on my neck. I’m taking really short breathes, it was all I could manage.”

“Matt started driving me towards the shop. I was coherent. I wanted to get some help and some pain killers. Maybe get my hands on the green whistle. A couple of my mates were still out in the surf, they didn’t even know it had happened. No one was at the shop. There were no supplies. Nothing.” 

“‘Fuck it. We need to get to The Homestead, hopefully they have first aid’. Then Eamon Molloy was back in the carpark discussing with his mate, “fuck these guys aren’t dealing with this properly. He’s really fucked up with a neck injury. I can’t leave it.’ He drove down and cut us off. ‘Okay, here’s how we’re going to handle this, he said. We arrived at Homestead to find out they didn’t have any useful med supplies. It was mind blowing. Just the bare minimums in first aid. No pain killers. No stretcher. No neck brace. Again nothing.”

“My mate who is a pilot was with me. RPS couldn’t fly into the air strip, so he raced ahead and readied the plane before we arrived. We were without a stretcher. Eamon and the guys searched and returned with a plank of wood from a shed in their hands. It was incredible. They placed the plank down, rolled me onto my side, held my neck the whole time and tied me to it with surfboard straps. That was the first moment I had felt secure.”

“In the six seater plane, the boys went and ripped out all the seats. We flew to Carnarvon, which took 25 minutes as opposed to a two and a half hour car trip. That trip would have been brutal without any pain killers. It’s corrugated the entire way. Hell, it probably would have messed me up further. Talking to RPS the whole time, aware I was landing at Carnarvon they were waiting with an ambulance.” 

strechter

“Doctors quickly realised I had many fractures and an issue in my neck. It was squishing on an artery to my brain. That was the biggest concern at that time, and I was like ‘fuck’. First worried about my head, then my neck, now worried about a blood clot!”

in plane

“I had amazing doctors, nurses and a team who looked after me. I can’t thank them enough. At the airport, I finally got the whistle. The doctors were impressed with the wood and tie down combo; they pulled away the towels placed ’round my neck to ensuring my head stay centred. The Morphine started kicking in. They cut my wetsuit off and the Royal Flying Doctors Service took me to Perth. I arrive at 4am on Monday. The next question was whether or not to operate. But, it turned out my back muscle’s and ligaments were the reason my spine stayed together.”

“I am counting my lucky stars. I sat in limbo for about four to five days. Now I have an X-ray every two weeks, check everything is ok. It’ll be at least six months before I get back into the water. I will need to ease my way back into it. I’ll get back out Gnaraloo though. It is just down the list of priorities for now. I probably won’t surf it on low tide again. First thing is hanging with my family.” 

wave2

Photographer: Chris Gurney

 

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

Allow Us To Introduce The YETI Ladybirds And Bottle Rockets Of Stab High Japan Presented By Monster Energy

Here's our schoolyard pick for teams; who will win the most cred at the lunch…

Jun 17, 2024

Prediction: Moving The WSL Finals To Fiji Will Kill Off Two More Surfing Superstars

Is this JJF's time to collect his titles? We checked the stats.

Jun 17, 2024

Confirmed: Fiji To Host 2025 WSL Finals

Cloudbreak will remain on tour until 2026.

Jun 17, 2024

What’s The Secret To Powersurfing?

Taylor Knox, Kyuss King, and Jessi Miley-Dyer tackle a trio of questions in our third…

Jun 16, 2024

How To Win Stab High Japan, Presented By Monster Energy

A statistical analysis of the 493 airs attempted in previous chlorinated editions.

Jun 16, 2024

Watch: An Intimate Portrait Of The Wave, Village, And People At The End Of The Road

Oxbow’s ‘Children of Teahupo’o’ is playing exclusively on Stab Premium for the next two weeks. 

Jun 15, 2024

Fuck It, Run The Entire CT In Indo

A historic beginning to the Indonesian dry season.

Jun 14, 2024

Ferrari Boyz: Holly Wawn

"I've had 4, 5, maybe 6 cars... I'm a car dealer I reckon."

Jun 13, 2024

A Miscalculated Shallow Dive, Neck-First, Into The Waters Of Japanese Surfing

How is surfing different in the land of cherry blossoms?

Jun 13, 2024

How Has Ian Crane Made 4/5 Stab High Finals?

And who he's most afraid of competing against in Japan.

Jun 13, 2024

“I Haven’t Seen Anyone That Young And That Keen For Heavy Waves In A Decade” —Shane Dorian

Jacob Turner is 16 years old and trying to paddle tow sets at Teahupo'o...on his…

Jun 12, 2024

Long Read: 1,000 Ways To Die In Indonesia

18,000 islands of beautiful people, world-class waves, and danger around every corner.

Jun 11, 2024

Watch: Craig Anderson And Kaito Ohashi Find (Mostly) Empty Waves In Southeast Asia

Oh, and enter to win a grand worth of DB gear.

Jun 11, 2024

Brad Gerlach Rode A 600cc Motorbike Through Europe’s 1980’s Psychedelic Renaissance  

"Fuck London. Let’s just buy motorcycles tomorrow and drive to France, man."

Jun 11, 2024

Caroline Marks Goes Two-In-A-Row And John John Florence Wins First CT Event Since 2020 At The Surf City El Salvador Pro

Plus, we asked Chris Cote for a look into the commentary team's psyche and Griff…

Jun 9, 2024

Why Is Mavericks Core Getting Overrun By Yuppies?

And other questions from our audience — answered by Pete Mel, Mick Fanning, and Joel…

Jun 9, 2024

Everything Worth Remembering From 4 (Mostly) Forgettable Quarterfinals In El Salvador

Plus, what's the consensus on the Griff vs. João kerfluffle?

Jun 8, 2024

Wildcard Big-dogs Italo, Yago Pops The Cork, And Griffin Cops An Ambiguous Interference On Day 2 In El Salvador

"Honestly, that was a bad... uhh I mean, a tough call." - Strider

Jun 8, 2024
Advertisement