A Love Story, a Man and His Surfboard

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Hayden Sorrel Pictured With His Camera and Surfboard in May 2014

Rain, hale or shine it’s quite common to see Hayden out the back waiting for a wave. Growing up on Ocean Beach Drive in the town of Shellharbour, mentored and inspired by not only his Dad but also his Pop, Hayden quickly developed a love for what he regards as his religion. When asked what age he started surfing he could recall distant memories of paddling out the back on his father’s surfboard at age 4.

His passion and love for surfing was tested in 2013 after an accident resulted in Hayden being hospitalised for a number of months. Following a storm in mid-April of that year Hayden searched his local beaches for the perfect wave to pit his skill against the ocean. After falling off his surfboard he was propelled head first into a reef, frantic minutes followed as Hayden lost consciousness and was dragged from the water by one of his surfing mates.

The waves that Hayden loved almost cost Hayden his life, his injuries were severe he had forgotten how to walk, go to the toilet, and even had trouble stringing a sentence together. His life had turned upside down in a number of hours, he felt a sense of betrayal as something in which he loved had now caused him so much pain. After his test results came back he was diagnosed with bleeding from the brain and was told hell never be the same again, let alone stand up on a surfboard. As a friend of Hayden it was a shock seeing a totally different person laying in the hospital bed and it was hard to comprehend if he would ever be the same. Instead of freely walking down the street, I found myself pushing him down the street in a wheelchair. Instead of going to visit him at his home, I sat by his hospital bed. Times had changed. The roller-coaster had just begun for Hayden. As he began to recover Hayden was gripped seizures as his brain tried to recover. This prolonged his recovery. After two months of constant physiotherapy, psychology, brain training and general recovery Hayden was transferred to a brain injury unit at Port Kembla Hospital, the changes were obvious. Soon he was defying the doctor’s words, he was on his feet within months not years, he was talking more than ever and had reached a level of independence he hadn’t seen in a few months. We were now able to walk rather than wheel down the street, I’d go visit him at his home and not his hospital bed. Times had changed.

Fast forward eight months time and Hayden had taken a different approach to express his love for surfing, photography. Although wanting to return to the water and be on the other side of the photograph the doctors described the risk as “way too high”. Once again it was quite common to see Hayden out the back, waiting for the perfect wave but also the perfect snap. Today, fourteen months after that faithful day Hayden is once again surfing and back to his old ways, not even a helmet can get in his way. Defying the doctor’s words yet again it is evident that Hayden’s love for surfing is like no other. Some describe him as crazy, myself included, however he describes surfing as his way of keeping sane.

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