DEFIANT professional surfer Andrew Cotton – who broke his back in a dramatic ‘wipeout’ – plans to get fit and back riding waves.
The 36-year-old from Braunton in North Devon hopes to make a full recovery after being engulfed by a 60ft wave – the size of a four-storey house – while surfing at Nazare in Portugal.
Footage of the accident shows him racing down towering wave before disappearing as it breaks over him; he is seen being propelled upwards and forwards through the surf before crashing down onto his back.
Afterwards he was rescued from the water, strapped to a spinal board and taken to a local hospital; where he was cared for by medical teams and interviewed by the press.
Waves in the area can reach up to 80ft and attract surfers from all over the world. Last year professional surfers questioned whether it was safe to compete at Nazaré after several injuries and near misses – one said the waves were “challenging and beautiful” but added: “The dangers involved seem to outweigh the rewards.”
Andy, who was previously credited with the biggest wave ever surfed, at Praia do Norte near the town, said that he considered himself very lucky.
“What can I say,” he said. “I got a little excited this morning and ending up having possibly the worst wipeout impact-wise of my life.”
And he blamed himself. “I didn’t read the wave ideally and got shown who was the boss; I’m not too bad actually — obviously, my back is hurting a little bit, but it’s all on the mend and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
“I have broken my back but I’ve been really lucky. I’m already looking forward and focusing my energy to get fit and back out there on some more big rollers.”
Doctors say the prognosis for Andy is good and the surfer thanked lifeguards and fellow surfers for getting him to shoes and the medical teams for his treatment.