The North Shore of Oahu rang in the New Year with the biggest swell of the 2019/2020 winter season (so far). With the Triple Crown and Pipe Masters in the rearview, and the holiday season in full swing, the lineup at Pipeline on December 31 was eerily empty, as a new, powerful west swell quickly grew in size and strength by the hour.
In the afternoon, big-wave charger Kohl Christensen picked off a beautiful-looking second reef roll-in (at the 10:15 mark in the video above). But, as the wave unloaded on the first reef and Christensen locked in, the wave stretched out too far down the line, and Christensen slipped as he tried to pump his 8-foot board inside the barrel, falling forward.
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While the wipeout didn’t look like anything special, everything went wrong underwater. It’s unclear whether it was the reef or Christensen’s own board, but something slammed into his head, knocking Christensen unconscious and sending him straight to the hospital for emergency surgery. Fortunately, the North Shore Lifeguards were able to act swiftly and save his life.
According to Christensen’s friend Casey Goepel, he is in stable condition and expected to recover fully. Goepel wrote this on Instagram yesterday:
“Please send your thoughts and prayers to Kohl Christensen and his family.
“Yesterday, at the end of a 2nd reef bomb, Kohl wiped out and hit his head on the reef. He cut his head open and fractured his skull. Thanks to the incredible team @northshorelifeguardassociation and first responders, Kohl was swiftly rescued and given the best care possible.
“After successful brain surgery, he’s exceeding all expectations and we’re hoping for a speedy recovery. We are eternally grateful for his surgical team at Queens.
“At this time, Kohl needs to rest and heal. Please send him and his family positive thoughts and good energy as he embarks in a strong recovery.”
Christensen is actually a co-founder of the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group, which trains surfers in safety protocols for exact situations like this, and it’s not a stretch to say the techniques the BWRAG teach are partly responsible for saving Christensen’s life, along with the lives of surfers like Hayden Rogers, Dusty Payne, Kalani Chapman and Evan Geiselman, who have all suffered similar head injures at Pipeline in recent years.
Yet another reminder that Pipeline is the world’s most dangerous wave.
This article originally appeared in Surfer.com and was republished with permission.
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