World Record Big-Wave Surfer Hospitalized

Broke neck in Big Sur

“Every day is a gift. Tell the people around you how much you love them because it's all that matters.” (Titans of Mavericks / Hallman)
Photo: Titans of Mavericks / Hallman KODY

Shawn Dollar, a Santa Cruz big-wave surfer who holds the Guinness Book of World Records mark for largest paddle-in wave, was injured on Monday in a surfing accident, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The 34-year-old hit his head on a rock while surfing in Big Sur, breaking his neck in four places and sustaining a concussion.

“I’m in stable condition and going to be okay. I expect a full recovery,” Dollar posted on Instagram. “Every day is a gift. Tell the people around you how much you love them because it’s all that matters.”

Greg Tomlinson, president and co-founder of VonZipper, the eyewear company that sponsors Dollar, told Outside that everyone at the company was stunned and concerned to hear about Dollar’s accident.

“Although it may be a minute before he gets back in the water, there is no doubt that with the love of his family, his relentless optimism, the well wishes of his friends, and the surfing community at large, he’ll be getting back after it in no time,” said Tomlinson.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported a forecast on Monday of wave heights between four and six feet across the Central Coast. However, Elfin Saffer, the marketing promotions manager for O’Neill Surf Shop in Santa Cruz, said the waves were peaking at 25 feet at Dollar’s location. The spot, which Saffer calls a local secret, is incredibly rocky, has difficult access, and is far from shore. It’s only due to the assistance of the surfers with Dollar on the day of the accident that the surfer survived his injuries, said Saffer.

“Shawn is not the kind of guy that surfs anywhere mellow,” Saffer, who has firsthand experience with the wave, told Outside on Wednesday. “It’s a true miracle he survived.” 

Dollar paddled into a 61-foot-high wave at Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, on December 12, 2012. Watch his record-breaking wave here:

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