ACC spent more than $196 million helping people recover from injuries in Northland last year, with 79,971 new claims for injury in 2020.
The information comes as ACC launches its Preventable Campaign, which urges people to "have a Hmmmm" and stop and think before undertaking activities.
And one man who knows all about ACC helping with injury claims is Mangawhai surfer Mick Andrews, who still loves to get out on his board, despite a surfing accident 22 years ago that threatened to change his life for the worse forever.
Andrews enjoys sitting on his surfboard out amongst the waves on Mangawhai Beach as the sun rises over the East Coast and another set of golden waves roll in. He takes a moment to soak up the idyllic surrounds of his home beach and remembers a moment that could have changed his life.
Andrews suffered a nasty head injury 22 years ago at Easter and he knows how lucky he is to still be able to do what he loves.
"These days surfing for me is an escape," the 40-year-old said.
"To be out in the water and in that beautiful scenery is pretty special. Maybe it's a sign of maturity but it's good to just appreciate the act of doing it rather than just going out there to ride big waves or push myself."
Andrews is more cautious these days because he knows first-hand the impact of a surfing injury.
In 1999, he made his way to Ōakura in Taranaki for an Easter surfing camp.
He arrived a day early on the Thursday before Good Friday and went out for a surf with some mates at a place called Stent Road.
The Auckland born-and-bred surfer remembers the surf was four to five feet and it was powerful.
"It was definitely on the bigger side of what I was comfortable with," he said.
After catching a wave, Andrews was paddling back out and a massive wave broke right in front of him. He duck-dived the wave and might not have gone deep enough as the board got ripped out of his hands.
"I got totally pummelled," he said. "I remember my leg rope going really tight and then loose.''
The stretched leg-rope helped bungy the board into Andrews' face.
"A split second later, I got this almighty whack on my face. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. It was like a car had driven straight into my face. It was incredible. I remember tumbling under the surface and thinking 'Wow that is going to have consequences'. Like, I can't believe I just felt that."
Andrews floated to the surface. He was still conscious and managed to find his board, but he couldn't see which was distressing.
"I felt quite scared. I definitely had a sense of dread that something seriously bad had just happened."
Andrews tried to paddle what he thought was in, but he was going further out to sea, when his good mate, Paul Marshall, noticed something was up and paddled over to him.
"Most people put on a brave face and say, 'It's not too bad'. Well he just looked at me and his face dropped. He looked like he had seen a ghost. I knew that I was in a bit of trouble and he realised that he was making me even more scared so he said, 'It's all good bro, shall we just a paddle back in together?'."
Andrews says it was a massive shock when he saw himself. His left eye was hideously swollen, he had nasty gash on his cheek and there was blood coming out of his eye.
He was driven to Taranaki Hospital where he spent a night as they monitored his symptoms as the doctor feared the incident could cause diplopia (permanent double vision).
Andrews suffered a tear on his eyeball, a graze on his face which required stitches. His face was badly bruised and several months after the incident he was still sore.
"I was pretty lucky I didn't lose my eye."
ACC supported Andrews' recovery with surgery and specialist care but there were also long-term consequences from the injury.
"The board hit me in the front of my mouth with a mighty force. That led to me getting abscesses in my two front teeth, which caused those teeth to die and I had to have them replaced."
The impact from the board ripped his tear duct - which drains tears from your eyes to your nose – and he had an operation to fix the tear duct where they put a stent in to link the two back up.
"It didn't work so to this day if I go into a cool breeze and my eye creates tears, the tears just run down the left-hand side of my face because they don't drain properly."
In the past five years ACC has accepted 27,350 surfing-related injury claims and these came at a cost of $38m. There were 5498 surfing injuries in 2020 which came at a cost of $9.3m (the highest cost of this period).
"As surfers we have to respect the ocean and acknowledge that our sport is an extreme sport and does have its dangers," says Lee Ryan, the Development Manager at Surfing New Zealand.
"It's just knowing how to minimise the risks and that comes with experience."
Helping Kiwis avoid these injuries is the key driver for ACC's newly launched campaign called Preventable. The campaign will look to decrease the number of injuries and reduce the severity of injuries. It aims to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders at home, work and play.
ACC Head of Injury Prevention Isaac Carlson says it's estimated 90 per cent of injuries aren't random, unconnected or unpredictable – they are predictable and therefore preventable.
"People can avoid most injuries by taking a moment to think – have a Hmmm," said Carlson.
"It is all about taking a moment to think about what you're about to do, what could go wrong and taking action to make sure it turns out well.''
Andrews said he'll never forget that afternoon at Stent Road in Taranaki and offers good advice for other surfers.
"I'd say it's good to surf at the edge of your ability but not beyond it. It's a healthy thing to push yourself a bit and ride waves that make you a little bit nervous, but you need to make sure you aren't going out in conditions that are beyond your ability because it's easy to get in trouble.
"If you go two or three foot above what you are comfortable in, then that is not a great idea."
And, he said, on a practical level, whenever you are duck-diving waves, make sure you hold on tight to your board.
"Ever since my injury happened if I'm getting tossed about in the water, I make sure I put my arms in a criss-cross across my face. It can happen really quickly, and you can do some serious damage. You need to protect yourself."
'Preventable' by the numbers:
· ACC accepts over two million injury claims per year, over 5000 injury claims a day
· These claims come at annual cost of $4 billion
· It is estimated that 90 per cent of all injury claims are preventable
· ACC invests around $80 million per annum into injury prevention
Advice from Surfing NZ – Top Five Tips to Stay Safe on the Waves
1. Surf within your skill level – If in doubt don't paddle out
2. Use the correct surfboard for your ability and the conditions
3. Make sure you keep your equipment in good condition – any open dings can cause
injury, check your leash for cuts and check the leash string where it goes into your deck plug to make sure it is not worn.
4. Never ditch your board – your board is a flotation device and it will bring you back to the surface.
5. If you are a novice get a lesson from a Surfing New Zealand Approved Surf School or qualified surf coach – it's the fastest and safest way to improve your surfing. A list of Approved Surf Schools can be found at surfingnz.co.nz/surf-schools/