Stab Magazine | A Very Real Reminder To Purchase Travel Insurance On Surf Trips
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A Very Real Reminder To Purchase Travel Insurance On Surf Trips

Cliff Kapono scores then (nearly) breaks his neck somewhere in the West Pacific. 

cinema // Oct 6, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

As if you needed another reminder of how dangerous surfing can be. 

While visiting the Western Pacific for his “studies”, Hawaiian scientist/surfer Cliff Kapono got a little too up close and personal with the reef, which in turn badly lacerated his head, burst his eardrum, and nearly crunched his spine. After a week of surfing dreamy reef pass tubes, this was a big wake up call for Cliff. 

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“They had a neurologist who looked me over and told me I’d need a bunch of stitches,” Cliff told Surfer. “I got X-rays and a CT scan, and they told me I’d broken my neck in three places, but I had no spinal cord damage. They said I was super lucky, which I was, but I was also immediately thinking about all the people I know who’d had head trauma and spinal injuries and there’s so much scary stuff that happens afterwards. I was kind of freaking out. I was also thinking about the chance of infection, because I’ve studied coral before, doing bacterial isolations, and I know there’s gnarly bacteria there. I was just thinking, ‘This is really bad, I either need to get back to the US, or to the main hospital on the main island.’ The doctors said, ‘Yeah, you should go,’ and then after staying the night in the hospital they opened up the airport–it normally isn’t even open–and they loaded me onto a medevac plane and took me to the main island. At the hospital there, they gave me an MRI and they told me they didn’t actually see any damage to my spine, so I just needed to take care of the stitches.”

Luckily for Cliff, just one month prior he had purchased a year-long travel health insurance package from the Diver’s Alert Network, which for just $35 covered his $20,000 medevac and other expenses. 

Cliff implores that others learn from his experience always purchase travel insurance before a surf trip. He also warns that after you get your best wave of your trip, perhaps it’s best to head in rather than be greedy and go back for more. 

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