Koa Rothman’s impossible disappearing act - on one of the most square, dry pits of the event - left his fellow competitors slack-jawed and fighting for second place. Photo: Noyle
Koa Rothman’s impossible disappearing act - on one of the most square, dry pits of the event - left his fellow competitors slack-jawed and fighting for second place. Photo: Noyle

Koa Rothman Hit In Head By Surfboard In Frightening Wipeout, Swallows His Broken Teeth

"It could have been a lot worse. I honestly could have died."

Koa Rothman says that he’s lucky to be alive after a bailed 10-foot board hit the side of his head while he surfed a remote Southern Hemi outer reef during a recent Surfline project. An accompanying video shows Koa pulling into an 8-foot tube, on his backside, when an approaching surfer ditched his board late into the lip, hurling the board at Koa’s head and knocking him flat.

A concussion, a sprained neck, and a mouthful of broken teeth aside, Koa left the shallow reef okay, though he faces a two-week recovery out of the water.

“Since I was backside, the board was a little harder to see out of the corner of my eye,” Koa told us over the phone while in Newport visiting his physical therapist. “I just saw the last second of it. I remember putting my head down, and it felt like…well, it felt like I got hit by a ten-foot board. I was lucky his leash kind of pulled the tail back a little bit, because if it didn't, I think the fins would've gone straight into the side of my head. I could've lost my eye. I'm just stoked it wasn't worse.”

The blow instantly broke about five teeth. Koa’s mouth was closed when he hit the water, which meant there was nowhere for them to go but down the hatch: he swallowed the loose teeth.

“I thought my face or my eye socket were crushed,” says Koa. “I knew my teeth were broken. But I popped up and asked one of my buddies, 'What's wrong with my face?’ I asked him to look at my head to see if there was any blood. He told me that nothing was wrong. I said to him, ‘No, dude, don't lie to me. You don't need to worry about freaking me out. I know it's going to be bad.’ He's like, ‘No, there's nothing wrong with your face.’

Koa was shocked that he didn’t suffer a worse injury — or a worse outcome altogether.

“I couldn't believe it. I was feeling around and was waiting to put my hand in a big gash or something. It shook me so hard,” said Koa.

“It could have been a lot worse. I honestly could have died, so I'm pretty stoked I got out of it.”

[Featured Image: Koa Rothman, 2017 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout. Photo by Noyle]