Oli, with mind far from the shackles of required medicine, Scotland.
UK Pro surfer Oli Adams is doing it tough
Photos by Jan Bijl
Oli Adams is well-known in the UK for relentlessly hunting remote cold slabs in obscure corners of the British Isles. What’s not so well known about Oli is that he’s been suffering with Crohn’s disease since he was 14. After years of living with the disease and taking immunosuppressive drugs, Oli became critically ill 12 weeks ago. The emergency surgery, which saved Oli’s life, involved removing the whole of his larger intestine. The reality is thus: Oli is almost certain to have to live, and surf, with a stoma bag for the rest of his life. Oli gave us the low down on what he’s been dealing with for the entirety of his surfing career:
“Crohn's causes inflammation and internal bleeding in the digestive system (in my case the large Intestine) which makes taking in nutrients from your food very difficult, leaving you malnourished and with no energy. For me, it affected my whole career from under 14's through to Euro and Oz Pro junior tour, and more recently the WQS. I was only diagnosed when I was 23 so throughout the first part of my career a lot of the time I was knackered, shaky and inconsistent and I never knew why. I'm stoked that during that time I still managed to win the English Championships. When I was 23 I got so ill that eventually I couldn't surf to a competitive standard anymore, and had to stop competing. After a few years of taking immunosuppressive (Chemotherapy) drugs I managed to get to a stage where I had periods of time where I could surf pretty good again and go on trips, but I couldn't predict when I would have a flare up. I decided to stick to freesurfing so I could be on my own schedule. It’s ended up working out great as I've been scoring mental waves around the UK all year round rather than grovelling with 100 guys at contests, and my sponsors were really supportive during this transition. My flare ups were less and less in the last few years due to the drugs and a very strict lifestyle and diet, but I still didn't feel 100 percent. Last year I slowly got worse and worse and in December I got rushed to hospital and nearly died. After having my whole large intestine removed I’m now medication free. Even with a colostomy bag I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I've been in the gym now for a month straight and I feel stronger than ever. I’m back in the water and learning how to surf with the Stoma bag. I'm really excited to see how far I can take my surfing now, whether it's going back to WQS or continuing with freesurfing, the future is looking bright!”