Barrels, Beatings and Broken Bones
Intrepid explorer and surf seeking nomad, Carmen has dedicated her life to the search for waves and isn’t afraid of “roughing it in return for a few barrels”. Originally from Canada, Carmen has been on the road for 10 years and this open-ended ticket to ride is nowhere close to being traded in. Currently living in Margaret River with her husband and best friend, Rick Kershaw, their life consists of saving-up and travelling together to different surf destinations all over the world.
Her most recent trip was an enviable journey from Canada to Panama and back up to El Salvador, hunting for tubes in their beloved van Ezmerelda. Their trip was cut painfully short when Carmen shattered her ankle during a magic session at one of El Salvador’s most famous waves. Breaking all three bones in five different places, followed by three sleepless nights in the van, she was finally rewarded with an excruciating plane ride home and fixed up with two large plates and 23 screws. Ouch!
With plenty of downtime on her hands, Carmen took the time to tells us all about her worst injury to date and give us some insights into her life on an eternal surf trip.
When and where did your passion for surfing start?
It all started when my sister and I went on a road trip around Australia about 10 years ago. We snowboarded, skateboarded and wakeboarded together so naturally we felt we should give surfing a go. I’ve been travelling to different surf destinations ever since.
So how did you end up in Margaret River?
Originally the surf and my sister brought me here but eventually I met Rick Kershaw, my best friend who I married literally on Margaret River.
Tell us about this crazy ankle injury of yours?
Rick and I bought a van in Canada and drove down to Panama. On our way back up, in El Salvador we were surfing a wave called Punta Roca. I was having the best session of the trip when I took off on a wave, adjusted my front foot and randomly twisted my ankle. When I came up it was unbearable pain! Some wilderness medical type guy had a look at it, figured it was just a sprain but thought I sould go in. So Rick and I paddled 1km into a beach rather than come in over these big boulders. I got carried to the local hospital, injected with painkillers and sent me off on an hour drive to another hospital in the capital, San Salvador.
After a three hour wait for X-Rays they told me both my leg bones where broken and that if I stood on it the bones would pierce the skin. I was sent on my way with an air cast that was too big, with no air in it, that pretty much did nothing! I could feel the bones moving and grinding. Nasty! I “slept” in our van for three nights before flying back to Canada, abandoning Ezmerelda, our beloved van. Two flights with incredibly painful wheelchair service then straight to a wonderful clean Canadian hospital. More X-Rays, showing five breaks not two. Three more days waiting for surgery before being released with one 7-inch long L plate on my Tibia, one medium size plate on the Fibula and 23 screws! Lasted an hour at home before returning to hospital due to complications. Spent another week there on bed rest, so drugged out on morphine I couldn’t even breath anymore. I’m so lucky I had Rick to do EVERYTHING for me!
What kind of rehab are you doing?
Lots of rubber band work, calf raises and balance work. I do Yoga every day, swimming, biking and I can go for short walks. I ice it 4 times a day and self massage 2 times a day. Sleeping ALOT! I have good days and bad days, but I’m pretty adamant on getting in the water as soon as possible so I am doing everything I can to make it happen.
If you could head anywhere in the world once that ankle is healed, where would it be?
We are in Bali now, renting a studio for 2 months so I couldn’t think of a better place then here to get back into it. It’s a bit like torture watching Rick get barrelled all day.
What does surfing mean to you?
To me surfing is a way of life, a form of meditation and an extremely healthy addiction.
Favourite wave/surf spot?
Craziest wave you have ever surfed?
Crazy can be defined in different ways…
Crazy perfect: Riffles, Indonesia
Crazy Big: Sunset, Hawaii
Crazy Scary: All those slabby sort of waves in W.A. like Gas, Grunters, and Jakes Point. Those are pretty intimidating.
Most memorable session?
I have had a lot of memorable sessions at Treasure Island but one sticks out to me. It was just me Ken Bradshaw and his wife for about an hour then they went in and I had it to myself for about 5 hours! It was perfect. I was literally laughing out loud to myself, trying to paddle back fast enough to get the next wave cause it felt wrong to let those waves go unridden. I still have no idea how I scored such a magical session to myself, I kinda wished I had someone to share it with.
Carissa Moore. Her attitude and the way she surfs is, in my opinion, so far beyond anyone else.
Ankle for sure!
I had a two wave hold down at Grunters in W.A. a few years back. That really changed my perspective of surfing I really thought I was gonna die. Ignorance is bliss eh?!
When my sister and I went to Australia for the first time. Was our first real trip overseas away from family we were really young at the time. Just kind of opened the doors to so many possibilities. Really got a sense of freedom. That’s also where I found my new path, chasing waves around the world.
If you could spend a day with someone who inspires you, who would it be and what would you do?
All of my inspiration has come from so many different random people at random times. So I can’t say who but I generally get inspired meeting new people over a few drinks.
I you could be someone else for a day..who would it be?
Where is next on your surf hit-list that you haven’t been to before?
I’m not sure which one but either Phillipeans, South Africa or Morocco, I like rights…
Most hardcore surf spot you’ve visited?
Probably Mentawaiis when it was a bit more difficult. When you had to get the old crappy wooden ferry with all your own food and water. Try to keep the food without refrigeration plus fight off the rats, spiders, snakes, malaria and staff infections.
Not working much/ surfing a lot. Dreaming big. I think anything is possible but some people might know me as a dreamer.
I really enjoy wine & coffee
I love… Rick
I miss… Surfing
I wish… I was unbreakable
I want… To be in the green room
Describe yourself in three words?
Determined, Shy, Spontaneous