Surf mishap 'like jumping off a roof'

By Hamish McNeilly

Rueben Skipper recuperates in Dunedin Hospital after shattering a vertebra while bodyboarding at Aramoana. Photo / Linda Robertson
Rueben Skipper recuperates in Dunedin Hospital after shattering a vertebra while bodyboarding at Aramoana. Photo / Linda Robertson

It was a wave that could have cost a Dunedin man his life.

Rueben Skipper was bodyboarding barrel after barrel at Aramoana last Thursday afternoon when suddenly "there was no more water - just sand".

"It was like jumping off a roof and landing straight on your bum," the 40-year-old said from his bed in Dunedin Hospital yesterday.

He hit the sand so hard he heard the crunching sound of his own spine. He was pulled back into the water by the waves and tried to get the attention of fellow bodyboarder Stuart Barson.

Mr Skipper, who was screaming and trying not to vomit, was pulled towards the shallows by his mate, who signalled for a man on a jet ski to help him take Mr Skipper to the beach.

Although Mr Skipper feared the worst, fate suddenly took a strange twist.

"I see this lady walking her dog coming up and it turns out she was a doctor from the hospital's intensive care unit."

She was able to call emergency services to the scene while assisting Mr Skipper, who was "just lying in the wetsuit shaking and moaning".

He was so cold paramedics could not get pain relief into his veins, and he was later taken by the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter to hospital.

He was diagnosed with a shattered vertebra and spent his first five days "lying on my back even unable to cross my legs".

"I might still be getting surgery, but hopefully not," the father of three said.

Mr Skipper, who works at the Upstart Business Incubator and also runs a two-month-old start-up company, Swift Social, specialising in social media management for small businesses, said he had been amazed by the support.

He acknowledged that he was "very lucky" receiving the support he did that day.

"I could have been paralysed; I could have been dead."

- Otago Daily Times

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