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You should have seen the other guy. Photo by Tyler Correll
Last week, during the last day of my adventurous stay on Nusa Lembongan, the swell picked up tremendously, and the wind turned strongly offshore. My friends and I grabbed our boards and ran out to Shipwrecks, excited to get some uncrowded bigger waves before heading back to Bali. The tide seemed to be relatively high, so hitting the reef was the last thing on my mind. A huge set was rolling through, and I paddled for my first wave of the session. Because Shipwrecks had been so mild the past couple of days (I rode my longboard!), I assumed that it would be manageable even on a decently sized day, and that I would be A-OK riding my shortboard... but I miscalculated the heaviness of the wave, and instead of successfully pulling into a backside barrel, I went straight over the falls.
I’m not totally sure how big the wave was, but I was able to register that I was in the air whilst I was falling, which is never a good sign. Once I plunged into the ocean, I tried my best to swim towards the surface, but a strong undercurrent came and pushed me towards the reef. I was able to take in a huge gulp of air before I hit the water, so my focus was mainly on getting away from the sharp corals. Unfortunately, my thighs grazed the reef, and I used all my strength to kick up towards the surface, which slammed my ankle into a sharp outcropping. Once I made it back up, I paddled to the channel and surveyed the damage. Luckily, I had no severe cuts, just major reef rash on both of my legs and a couple nice gashes on my left foot.
My adrenaline was pumping, and I told my friends I wanted to stay out and keep surfing, but thankfully they helped me make the logical decision to paddle in and immediately clean out my wounds. Coral cuts are no joke, because the living bacteria and organisms can make it into your bloodstream and cause a major, potentially deadly infection. After a seemingly endless paddle towards the shore, I walked back to my homestay and immediately ran under the hose, trying to clean out the grit and grime. Unfortunately, the tap water here can be even dirtier than the seawater, so I grabbed some antibacterial soap and got to work. After a solid scrub, it was time for the lime.
As I was looking for some limes (to kill the bacteria) in the homestay’s kitchen, I heard my friend Jose shouting just outside the gate. I ran out to the road and saw him hopping towards me on one foot, and I asked if he got hurt too, expecting him to have some cuts like mine, but it was much worse. Jose said he may have broken his ankle, so I grabbed his board and helped him back to a chair in the yard. I forgot my search for limes and frantically looked for ice, while his ankle began to swell up like a balloon. There may have been a hospital on the island, but the prices would have been insane, and Jose assured me he just needed to rest. When I made sure he was situated with some ice and ibuprofen, I went back on the great cut cleaning quest.
Once I located some limes, I walked back toward Jose and told him I wouldn’t let myself scream if I squeeze the lime on my scrapes near him, since his injury made mine look like child’s play. But of course, as I squeezed the lime, I couldn’t help but cry out in pain. I then used some antibiotic ointment just to make sure the bacteria wouldn’t survive. When my other friends came in from surfing, we focused on making sure Jose was comfortable, while trying to figure out the best solution for his immobility. On a small island where people get around mostly by walking or motorbike, being unable to move your ankle is quite the problem.
We decided we would head back to Bali the next day, and Tyler and Jose changed their flights to leave Indonesia on Tuesday, a week before they had originally planned. Tyler helped me clean out my wounds even more, with another round of lime juice and some proper scrubbing. Once we got back to Bali, I found some Chinese medicine called Tieh Ta Yao Gin, a dark brown liquid that contains herbal extracts, meant to provide pain relief, while helping heal cuts and prevent infection (and supposedly is good for joints, colds, fevers, and everything else). Apparently it is a popular reef rash remedy, according to several surfers I’ve met here in Bali. So
far, it feels like the medicine has been working, so either it's a great placebo, or there is some validity to the claims that it cures all ailments.
If you ever find yourself in my situation, make sure that you have really, thoroughly cleaned out your cuts, and it's not a bad idea to stay out of the water for a few days! Luckily, I’m healing up well and am enjoying my last few days in Indonesia.