On January 8, Dusty Payne casually paddled into a six-foot set at Backdoor. As he tried to stand up, the wave sucked out from underneath his surfboard, causing him to catch his outside rail on the drop and fall awkwardly. The wave then picked him up, sucked him into the lip, and drove him headfirst onto the shallowest section of the reef.
Dusty didn't surface.
Luckily, photographer Keoki Saguibo saw it all happen and was able to summon help. Along with Saguibo, a group of fast-acting surfers got him to the beach, where he was resuscitated and rushed to the hospital. Alive, but with gruesome head wounds.
In the 12 days since, Payne has been surrounded by friends and family in the ICU.
"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster—with good days and bad—but we've been focusing on the little victories along the way," said Dusty's sister, Molly, when we called her for an update from the hospital. "Dusty had surgery yesterday for the skull fractures and broken jaw and they were able to fix it all in one go, which is huge. It was a long, five and a half hour surgery, but everything went smoothly. Now it's time to focus on his recovery and get Dusty out of the hospital. We're moving out of the ICU today and into a normal room. We probably still have a few more weeks here before he'll be discharged, but we're just taking it day by day.
"All the love and support has definitely been felt and we're so grateful for it. We're extremely thankful to everyone that played a role in saving him and we're so lucky we still have him. We especially want to thank Keoki [Saguibo], Uluboi [Jimmy Napeahi], Mikey Redd, the North Shore lifeguards and Tai [Van Dyke]."
Our thoughts are with Dusty as he recovers from the scariest 12 days of his life. We can't wait to see him back and stronger than ever.