How Laird Hamilton Pulled Strings To Get Andrew Jacobson Into LA's Premier Knee Surgeon Immediately
The consequences and year-long recovery of shattering your knee at Cloudbreak, and a short film, "A Snap Back to Reality" starring Andrew Jacobson.
It’s been eight months since Andrew Jacobson rode a shortboard. In May, after three days of pumping Cloudbreak, the 23-year-old rushed a little too hard. He found himself caught in the lip of a wave breaking off the middle section of the vast playing field that is Cloudy. The wave pin dropped him onto the reef. He went down, momentarily blacked out, slammed the razor-sharp coral and his board came back and slapped him in the head. That would be the least of his worries.
When Andrew came to, he looked down at his knee. It was backward. He was raced back to Los Angeles on what he would call the “worst flight of his life” and put in a hospital bunk with a knee blown to bits. Two weeks later he would go into surgery to restructure the remains.
“They literally had to rebuild my knee,” Andrew tells Stab. “I tore my MCL to pieces, and my PCL was torn. I had to get that sewn back together. Then my ACL was strained, and part of my knee cap was chipped off. On that wave, I was just in the wrong zone,” he laughs apathetically.
The wave that took Andrew out for the year.
“When I fell on that wave, you can see it in the GoPro footage, I came up and saw my knee twisted backward. It was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. I was just screaming. Luckily, I met this guy Mario the day before on the same trip. He’s an ER doctor. When I got to the boat, my knee was completely dislocated. He popped it back into place. If he wouldn’t have done that I likely would’ve gotten nerve damage or a blood clot, he basically saved my knee. I owe him the world.”
When he got back to LA, he saw multiple doctors. After most doctors didn’t know what exactly to do with his knee, some recommending multiple surgeries, fellow Malibu dweller, Laird Hamilton got wind of Andrew’s situation. He immediately recommended Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, who is the head team physician for the LA Dodgers and the LA Rams.
“I tried to see him but when I attempted to make an appointment they said they had an opening in three months,” Andrew says. “Laird heard I couldn’t get in and drove down to his office and next thing I knew the doctor saw me the next week,” he laughs. “When I saw him, he was so confident he could fix my knee in one surgery, so I went with him.”
If there's one thing Andrew does exceptionally well, it's sliding deep into the bluest of tunnels.
For the last eight months, consistent physical training and trying his best get his knee back to working form is Andrew's life. He’s been riding foamboard around home to stay sane, although he has yet to jump back on a thruster. The whole recovery process for an injury this severe is a full year.
“The first month I couldn’t walk,” says Andrew. “Then the next three I could start moving around with crutches. It’s weird though the first four months were easier than the last four. I think it’s because I can sort of do things now, but not the way I used to. Like when I get on a surfboard, I can’t do what I want. It's frustrating.”
Now, Andrew is doing physical training four times a week. His marquee sponsor Vissla just resigned him. “It’s only a year deal,” he says. “But that makes sense.”
"Luckily, I met my friend Mario the day before on the same trip. He’s an ER doctor. When I got to the boat, my knee was completely dislocated. He popped it back into place."
He’s shooting to be back in full form by summer. “It’s starting to feel more normal every day. My goal is to be able to start pushing myself in waves of consequence again by the year mark. I’m hoping to be around home [Los Angeles] for the first few south swells then take a trip somewhere.”
When Andrew’s knee returns to health, he plans on going back to Fiji and revisiting Thundercloud reef to thread more tubes like the ones seen in the above edit. All the waves above are from the three-day stint before his year-crushing injury.