Risk of death a fact of life for big-wave brigade

RAW NATURE: Big-wave riders like Sunshine Coast’s Mark Visser dice with death every time they hit the water.
RAW NATURE: Big-wave riders like Sunshine Coast’s Mark Visser dice with death every time they hit the water. Callum Macaulay

THE death of an Australian surfer at a remote Indonesia reef break has underscored the dangers inherent with the growing pursuit of bigger and more dangerous waves.

It comes as the sport's superstars prepare for the start of the 2014 Billabong world tour event at Teahupo'o in Tahiti, one of the most dangerous waves on the planet.

Kevin Bourez, a favourite to win the Air Tahiti Nui Billabong Pro Trials that precede the world tour event, is recovering in hospital after being driven head first into the reef, sustaining multiple fractures to his face.

Experienced Sunshine Coast surfers said yesterday that while deaths were rare, riders continued to suffer horrific injuries in their pursuit of bigger waves, later take-offs and deeper barrels.

Peter Luke, 27, went missing while surfing five metre waves at Scar Reef in West Sumbawa on Tuesday. He was eventually found, washed up on a reef, by friends who had started a search for him. The accomplished surfer has lived in Lennox Heads in recent years and was a member of Le-Ba Boardriders Club.

West Sumbawa police chief Teddy Hendyawan Syarif said the surf at the spot known as Scar Reef was huge at the time Mr Luke was killed. "The victim's death was caused by a wave smashing into him, which at that time was massive, up to five metres high," he told reporters.

Indonesian police are co-ordinating with Australian authorities to repatriate Mr Luke's body.

Sunshine Coast big wave rider Matt Dobell, who is a surf guide at the famed G-Land surf break in East Java, said risk was a constant presence because surfers would always try to outdo themselves

He leaves for Indonesia next weekend and expects his two-month stint will see repeats of the broken necks, legs and separated vertebrae that become consequences when surfers of various abilities get it wrong.

Mr Dobell said he would never forget an incident in which one surfer had wrapped his arms and legs around his board as a close-out approached.

The force of the 35-foot wall of white-water was so great that it separated his pelvis from the hip breaking it in numerous places.

No helicopter was available to airlift him out so he had to be driven to a local hospital until a chopper from a mining site came to his aid.

"Injuries happen all the time," Mr Dobell said. "In this case (Luke's death), where the guy knew what he was doing, it can be just plain dumb luck."

Topics:  surfing tahiti teahupoo

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