Surfing: Big wave surfing star is set to hang out in NZ

Mark Mathews is one of the best on huge waves. Photo / Red Bull
Mark Mathews is one of the best on huge waves. Photo / Red Bull

Leading international big wave surfer Mark Mathews will visit New Zealand this week.

Mathews, a fearless Australian-based daredevil with a reputation for being one of the best riders of huge waves in the world, is being brought here by the SurfAid charity.

He will speak at two events, the first at a dinner in Christchurch on Wednesday and then in Auckland for a lunch on Friday.

SurfAid is a non-profit organisation which helps to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in isolated surfing regions around the world. It was founded by a group of Kiwi surfers and is now supported internationally by some of the world's best surfers.

It bought three-time world champion Tom Carroll to New Zealand last year and Mathews is this year's headline act.

He will talk about his inspiring journey from a penniless want-to-be pro surfer, to an international brand name, part time philosopher, story teller and big wave surfing legend.

Mathews featured in an acclaimed documentary in 2011 called Fighting Fear. He was also featured in a popular Australian reality TV series called The Crew.

His career has featured many brushes with serious injury, including as recently as last year when he almost lost a leg in one accident.

Mathews said it was only the quick thinking of an ambulance officer, the cold water of the NSW south coast and the exceptional work of Australia's top surgeon that prevented his leg from being amputated.

Mathews had suffered a horrific wipeout a secret reef, dislocating his knee and causing severe internal damage including snapping both his anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, damaging nerves and tearing an artery.

"I thought it was snapped," he recalls of the accident. "I thought that my shin was snapped in half."

As his limb ballooned in size, the ambulance officer concluded an artery in Mathews' leg had split, haemorrhaging blood inside the limb. He called for a helicopter evacuation to the nearest major hospital.

Mathews was flown to a Canberra hospital where one of Australia's best surgeons was on hand to operate.

"He was telling my girlfriend 'I don't know if I can save it [the leg]'," he recalls. "But they got in and I was lucky he fixed the artery. If he didn't get to it, an hour later I would have lost my leg."

Tickets for the fund-raising events can be secured by contacting jessie@surfaid.org

- NZ Herald

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