Paralysed wakeboarder Brad Smeele returns to site of accident

By Nicole Barratt

New Zealand wakeboarder Brad Smeele with ICU nurses Paul Barkhau (left) and Andrew Galloway at Lake Ronix in Florida USA. Photo / via Instagram
New Zealand wakeboarder Brad Smeele with ICU nurses Paul Barkhau (left) and Andrew Galloway at Lake Ronix in Florida USA. Photo / via Instagram

A former top wakeboarder has returned to the site which altered his life forever.

Kiwi Brad Smeele, 29, was paralysed in a water accident at a Florida lake in 2014.

The former world junior champion was left a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair after shattering his C4 vertebrae in a failed landing.

Last week marked the first time he had returned to the States since his injury.

Today, Smeele visited Lake Ronix, the site where his accident occurred nearly two years ago. He posted to Instagram a message to his intensive care nurses who cared for him directly after the accident - Andrew Galloway and Paul Barkhau.

The 29-year-old said without the care of the nurses, he wasn't sure if he "would've made it through the those first five weeks".

"It made such a difference to have such awesome people looking after me in what was the hardest time of my life."

Smeele's message accompanies a photo taken with the nurses following their reunion, posted alongside an image of his rehab session at Project Walk.

The Kiwi said it was "difficult but fulfilling" visiting the location of his injury to confront his memories of that day.

Smeele wrote that the sights and sounds took him back to some of the best days of his life.

The former champion wakeboarder will be in the US the rest of September.

"The first half I'll be in Florida based out at Lake Ronix, I'll be at Surf Expo and doing therapy at Project Walk ... I'm super excited to see everyone and to spend time back out at Lake Ronix."

But his journey to Orlando wasn't easy. Smeele said he had a "very eventful" start to the journey, arriving at Auckland airport "drenched with sweat and a blood pressure of 188/110".

He said his friends joined him for a reunion at Lake Ronix, most of whom he had not seen since his injury.

Smeele was filming a difficult double rotation ramp-to-ramp jump he had pioneered when his accident occurred.

- NZ Herald

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