The day I almost died.....

...Ok, so that’s quite a dramatic title, but it hopefully got your attention....

But when I think back to the details, the story I’m about to share was the closest I’ve come to death while playing in my beloved ocean; surfing.

Since getting back to the UK after my recent travels I’ve had a lot of time for reflection; comparing my life back in London to the lives of those I meet while on my adventures. I like to think I work hard and do what I do for the right reasons, but sometimes we need to check back in form time to time and make sure that’s still the case. what are the right reasons?

The past few months have been full of new experiences, exciting new chapters, new skills and so much physical and mental expansion, all down to taking a chance on something I ‘felt'. Exploring the benefits of breathing for performance and the power of calming meditation lead me to becoming a Yoga teacher, and now it’s played a part in saving my life.Day one in the Mentawi Islands, 36 hours of transit from the UK to the remote coastline of West Sumatra in Indonesia and the trip of a lifetime is under way…

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HT's (Hollow Tree's) - Last night was choppy crossing the channel, sleeping in our bunks rocking from side to side in 30 degree sticky heat. I woke up feeling super tired but soon came to life as I came above deck to see a wave outside the window next to a tiny little island covered with palm trees.

It’s not long before I’m paddling around on my board and it’s magical! The waves are coming in around 5-6 ft at the beginning then soon jump up to some 7-8ft bombs while we're out there. I'm trying to act all cool amongst the boys but my heart is pumping and the rolling water under me is enough to keep me out of the action and happy to see the lads warm into it. 

I'm out for a about 2 hours and content I've not managed to get smashed on the first morning. The guide makes the call to head around the other side of the island and get out of the wind that's picked up, next stop 'Lances Left'.

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We arrive to two guys coming out of the wayer with snapped boards and the waves are powerful and big, but very clean so still inviting. I'm excited and also nervous at the same time. Some of the boys make the call to stay out of the water and spectate but I'm not one to miss out on the action and needed to keep up momentum to get some waves under my belt. I just wish they were more 'my size' (around 3-4 ft) and not 8, but me and 5 others headed out anyway...

I'm hanging on the shoulder (away from the wave drop zone) and watch the sets to gauge where I can slide in and steel a ride but there's a big delay and it's seems the wave pulse has dropped off, so we creep in a bit, then a bit more, then the mother of all waves comes through! This one’s the size of a house. One of the guys got caught at the top and bailed into a free fall over the top of me, then it was my turn.

I tried to duck dive as far under as I could but there was too much water and the power was like noting I'd ever felt before.
I was in the 'washing machine' getting thrown around like a rag doll made of cotton wool.
I was under, for what felt like minutes.
I hear and feel my knee ‘pop’.
There's no one to access what happened.
I'm getting bounced hard, but stay as relaxed as I can and remember my training (thank you Laird)  “Stay calm, you have enough air".
I popped up and gasped for a breath before going straight back under.
I knew there was reef under my feet.
I was bracing myself for a coral battering.
I tried to stand up and find my feet but there was nothing.
I'd slipped down the middle of a a coral bed.
The next wave took me under again.
My lease got hooked under the reef, looped around my ankle and pulled me down; I was locked in.
I take a big breath and go under to try free myself but it's too tight.
I have to brace for another set coming at me.
My board is getting smashed everywhere and the panic has set in.
I get a break from the waves so I dive under and manage to pull the leash off my foot.
The board comes free and I'm picked up by the current pulling me across the coral table.

The boat crew have seen I'm in trouble and send some help. All I have to do now is make my way out of the reef bed. I'm pulled into the boat and the blood starts to flow, I'm cut up pretty bad. The worry with coral lacerations is that the coral can start to grow under your skin if you don't treat it and clean the wound, so the crew get to work with ice for my knee and used the old school treatment of sliced fresh limes and start to rub it in and over the cuts (yes this stung a lot). The blood turns a dark brown and the coral particles wash away and my god did it sting!

It's starts to sink in that this is only day one and I'm out of action, time to go into turbo rehab and feel very grateful for my yoga and mobility training before I came out here, as it's literally saved my life and the surf trip.

The badboy chef is incredible on the boat, he really helps me reload and kick start the recovery process with a bottomless feast on local fresh fish, rice and vegetables. I’m drinking as much hydration nectar as I can with a combo of water and fresh island coconuts, and the lads enjoy their evening quota of bintang beers. I pass out after a dose of ibuprofen and paracetamol to end a very exciting first day.

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…it’s day 4 before I get the confidence to get in the water again. I’ve been going stir crazy on the boat and everyone is worried for my sanity. Not ready for surfing yet, but I throw some fins on and a snorkel and head over to the island reef to spot some sea life and move my body. The ocean literally heals me in minutes, my knee is feeling ok and there’s finally some hope my trip is not over…

The end.

Ok, so that’s obviously not the end, there’s a lot more to this story (i’ve actually done a journal for each day of the trip) but I’m sure most of you don’t want to read it all now. But if you like me to share more of these adventure stories let me know?In the mean time, my words of new found wisdom… Learn how to meditate, practice the art of breath, stay safe, have fun everyday, explore everything, live with passion and do more Yoga!. 

Aloha.

Love Richie