Regardless of Circumstance

Four surfers prove that surfing can always be at the center of your life

Dr. Phillip Chapman. Photo: Chisholm

“I spend my life stitching surf wounds at the edge of the world.” —Dr. Phillip Chapman

By Craig Jarvis

Phillip deals with people who hit their heads on the reef. He also deals with people who get bitten by snakes, who pick up rare fungal infections, who get split in half by giant waves at Speed Reef at G-Land and who cut themselves with their fins or puncture themselves with the noses of their boards. That’s how he spends his surf trips. He heads the Surfing Doctors network, whose mission is to repair bodies that have been broken at the beach, and to educate surfers on things like first aid and the need for surfing competency when attempting to surf serious waves.

“We’re a bunch of like-minded people who surf and have lifelong careers in medicine,” says Dr. Chapman of his Surfing Doctors network, which consists of ER doctors, nurses, and paramedics as well as physiotherapists and biokinetics specialists. The story behind Surfing Doctors is a simple one. Phillip had been doing the doctor roster at G-Land since 2000, and then in 2008 an incompetent surfer, panicking in the face of a huge set wave, turned around and faced the beach. “That wave literally split him in half,” said Chapman. “It broke his pelvis. We formalized Surfing Doctors after that accident. That guy came quite close to dying, and we figured out that more needed to be done.”

They have future plans. “Our mission is to help crew in remote locations,” says Chapman, “but this year we want to go a bit further, raise more awareness, get into some rehab systems, and hopefully open up our own clinics around the globe. We don’t only fix up damaged surfers, but look after the locals, and their families, and educate them as much as possible on general health issues. We are trying to focus more on surfers’ health and not just reef carnage.” Well, that, and surfing the best waves on the planet.