This has to be the world’s worst face plant.
A horrific wipeout left a surfer with such severe injuries he needed major facial reconstruction surgery.
Steve Bowens, 43, a sports scientist from Cornwall, England, was hit “square in the face” by a stand-up paddle board he had been using after a 3ft swell knocked him off his feet.
Recalling the accident in February he said: “As the wave came to the end it sectioned. I bottom turned but misjudged it and took a tumble.
“The wave was not big, about 3ft. However I landed in the wrong place at the wrong time and the board hit me square in the face, right between the eyes.
“The sensation was as if someone hit me with a baseball bat. It was violent and I as I came to the surface I knew that I was likely to pass out.”
With blood pouring from his face he was helped to the shore and taken to hospital, where he underwent major reconstruction surgery.
Two facial surgeons spent nine hours working on him, during which time he was cut from ear to ear and his face peeled forward allowing the perforation to be patched with muscle.
His cheek also had to be rebuilt and his eye suspended on titanium mesh.
Bowens, who is a member of Portreath Surf Lifesaving Club, is on the road to recovery now, but that it was lucky he even made it back to shore.
“This would have been very bad indeed. I was still 150 metres from the shore and I was not sure if anyone had seen me on the wave, let alone being hit by my board.
“As soon as I surfaced I climbed back on, thinking that at least if I passed out I would have some chance of keeping my airway out of the water until the next wave. Looking down at the board it was like someone was pouring red paint from a bucket onto the deck.
“I had never seen so much blood before. I then started shouting, I didn’t care who saw me, only that someone would see where I was and that I needed help.”
A concerned surfer paddled over to Bowens and asked if he needed help.
“I told him I needed to get back to the beach, but he seemed unsure of how to help. Fortunately the next wave caught me and I managed to prone surf back to the shore.”
On reaching the beach Bowens struggled to stand and was helped to the car park, where his wife Sally, a doctor, was called to take him to the emergency room.
He had received a deep laceration to his forehead, nose and cheek. Bowens had also broken his nose, both eye sockets, right cheek and “everything had been pushed in a bit”.
“As the impact had imploded the bones which make up the sinuses, this had forced air around my brain, and created a hole from my skull to the outside world through which cerebral spinal fluid now flowed,” he said.
But despite his injuries, Bowens desperate to get back in the water. He now wants his terrible experience to act as a warning to other surfers, who may not be up to speed with how to help themselves or others if facing a similar scenario.
“There were lots of other surfers around, and some of them clearly wanted to help but seemed to lack the specific skills or confidence to know how best to do this,” he said.
“If I had passed out in the water, I think they would have really struggled to get me back to the beach.”
He hopes to train surfers how to deal with accidents like his and is currently in discussions with Surf Lifesaving UK, the RNLI and the Scottish Surfing Federation to set up a project which he hopes will provide very basic training for “surfers to help surfers”.
The plan is to refine a syllabus which would include aspects such as how to get a surfer back to the shore using their or another surfer’s board, how to get help, simple first aid, CPR and recovery position details.
“This is very much in its developmental stage but I am hopeful that the surf lifesaving clubs up and down our coast might be able to help too. I am looking to find volunteers to deliver this training and perhaps some sponsorship to help promote it,” Bowens said.