Shea Lopez had already re-qualified for the World Championship Tour, a huge feat in itself. Now he was in the quarterfinals of the X-Box Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters and sniffing for an even bigger result — the one trophy of any right-foot-forward surfer’s dreams. Of course, the swell had turned north for that fateful finals day. But Shea was “feelin’ it” on his backhand , so the lined up rights off Backdoor were actually getting him pretty pumped. Then, after getting slotted, huckin’ spray, and sticking rocked out floats all morning, revving his rhythm, something gruesome happened — something that took only one more mega-float over that famous, brutal reef — a torn MCL, a jacked ACL, and one busted-up knee. Now the right foot of Shea Lopez might be staying dry for the next six months. We spoke with the Gulf Coast super competitor in his hospital bed just after a seven- hour session under the knife, where he sounded both hopeful and dazed. So after you read this, go and savor your next couple waves like they might be your last ones for a while, and ride ‘um for Shea and every other dude on the {{{DL}}}. They’ll be thankful for each one they get.

SURFING How you feeling, bro?
SHEA LOPEZ: Ah, as good as one can be after what I had to have done to me. I blew out my ACL, my MCL, and my PCL . . .yeah, I did them pretty good.

We’ve heard vaguely, but how exactly did this happen?
I went a little big . . .a little too big. It was a floater at Backdoor, you know, which isn’t advised. I’d made one earlier in the morning and this one looked about the same — though I was going a little faster on this one, covering a little more ground, with a little more momentum on my way down. I landed about half way down, and when I did, the wave decided that it wanted to bottom out on me, so it kind of grew. And instead of landing on the flats using my direction and inertia to fly toward the beach, I landed going uphill, making it all compress into my front leg as the board stopped instantly.

Also, when the bottom had dropped out I’d got extended so I was almost up on my tippy-toes. All of the sudden I was in the air. Then, as I landed, I was set on my board so that my center of gravity was pushed into my front leg. It wasn’t to the side, or forward, or back; I was directly over the leg, as the pressure got stronger and stronger. That’s when the MCL went. Fast! So fast that when it went out my knee went down into the board, inward, and my foot went out and up toward the nose, which was what worked the PCL and ACL, because those two are right on top of each other, intertwined. I had a {{{90}}} degree angle: Femur to the board, Fibia and Tibia 90 degrees out from that.

Did it happen so quick that you couldn’t realize what was happening?
No, no, no — it happened where I landed. And I’m trying to stick it, pushing all of my weight on my front leg trying to move forward and get away from the explosion, and I just kept sucking it up and sucking it up, going, ” Oh shiiit,” while watching the knee giving out inward and my toes going out toward the nose, and then grabbing my knee with both hands, rolling off the side of the board.

No way, you mean you were still moving on the wave?
Oh yeah, I’m rolling off the side of my board because the wave is breaking on my back now — and it’s a pretty solid chunk of Backdoor. Underwater I just held my knee because it was dislocated and flopping all over. I couldn’t swim, but I had to let the wave work me in underwater until I finally popped up by the beach to start waving, making sure they knew I needed a bunch of people down there. So they carried me up, ATV’d me out of there, and plopped me at the (Gerry) Lopez house where I watched the Pipe Masters final, iced up and drugged up. It was pretty heavy.

You must have been feeling confident in that heat because, like you said, “A floater at Backdoor isn’t always something advised to do.”
Yeah! This was the Pipe Masters.

You were psyching!
Yeah . . .I mean, I’m not afraid to go big out there. (Laughter) I’d already pulled one earlier that morning, and now this was the quarters, and I already had one pretty good wave, with two good turns, and I figured that if I finished with the big float I was going to get a seven and that I was going to be on to the semis with a shot to win the Pipe Masters.

And now you might be out of the water for some time?
Well, you never know; it could be three months; it could be six months. But, by the way my doctor, Dr. Kramer, is saying that he totally killed the surgery. He can’t believe it — it took seven hours for his whole team and every step went perfectly. He says it’s the best one he’s ever done. They even got rid of built up scar tissue that was there from before. He’s claiming it’s gonna’ be better than new. Like, if it were a contest he would have gotten three perfect tens.

Wow, I wouldn’t mind that.
Yep, now I’m gonna’ rehab this thing, get it stronger than ever, and then get out there to still try and win a couple contests. Hagan Kelley