When you’re an author, life events, good or bad, often make it into your writing. They can even inspire a whole novel.
Three years ago, I was surfing at my local beach when my board smashed me hard in the side of the head. I felt myself starting to black out, but fought it, because I was in deep water and feared I would drown. I clung tightly to my surfboard and made it in to the beach lying on my board. Apart from a growing egg-sized lump on my head, I didn’t feel too bad.
But that afternoon, as I sat at home with an ice pack, I noticed strange gaps in my vision. I rushed to a local optician who freaked out and said my retina was detaching. So I rushed to Emergency, but it turned out my retina was merely loose. If a retina comes detached, emergency surgery is needed to save your vision but if it’s just loose, there’s nothing they can do, and once loose it will always be loose. To my relief, my vision soon returned to normal, apart from a few strange floaters.
But the next day my brain started to scramble. It was the weirdest feeling. Time seemed to slow and I realised I struggling to form thoughts. I headed back to Emergency for a CT scan. The doctor diagnosed delayed concussion and wanted to keep me in hospital but I’m a single mum of two young kids, so he reluctantly allowed me to go home, with strict instructions to rest. I also had to get a rota of kind friends to phone me at two hourly intervals through that first night, to check I could wake up.
Apart from relief, my main reaction was annoyance. “How long until I can surf again?”
It’s the same every time I injure myself. I imagine it’s the same for anyone who loves a sport.
The doctor looked at me like I was mad and told me: 14 days.
I waited 14 days. Then, feeling guilty and reckless and selfish, I went surfing again on day 15. I was cautious, knowing another head injury could be serious.
I was supposed to be writing my next book but I didn’t have the concentration to even read. My concentration took months to improve and I had to train myself to avoid distractions. I still struggle to multi-task. I can’t listen to music while I read or drive, and loud noises and bright light bother me more than they used to.
A few months later, just as I thought I was in the clear, I went for a deep-sand run and completely lost the vision in one eye. Maybe my brain overheated or got too shaken around. I rushed back to Emergency thinking my retina had detached, but it was apparently a brain issue not an eye issue and my retina was still merely loose. My vision returned a few hours later but I still have occasional vision issues.
I’ve done myself a fair bit of damage over the years, from the sports I’ve done, but this is my most serious injury to date. Naturally the accident inspired the book I was writing. Sport is good for you, they tell us. But my accident made me question this. What if (like me) the sports you enjoy are dangerous ones that smash you up?😅Is surfing good for me or is it an unhealthy, dangerous addiction? That got me thinking about where my limit would be – and where that limit might be for other people. How far might someone go to pursue their addiction? What price might they pay to continue surfing?
Then I began thinking about the different ways sports can damage us: the physical and mental trauma that accidents can cause. In The Bay / The Swell, a group of young keen surfers have claimed a remote Australian beach as their own. Surfing and other sports have damaged them in different ways, but they will do whatever it takes to keep surfing.
KENNA lost the love of her life in a surfing accident.
MIKKI’s addiction to surfing has torn her from family and friends.
JACK lives in constant pain from his accident.
VICTOR has PTSD from his accident.
RYAN uses surfing as a means to opt out of real life.
I love damaged characters. Trap them together and who knows what they might do?
The Bay is out in paperback in the UK on 25 May 2023.
It’s out in paperback in North America on 18 July 2023, titled The Swell.