Published in Blog, February 28, 2011
It was just all too familiar.
I was in the water 15 minutes before the end of the last session and one of my students said she was just exhausted and asked if I would take her board so she could watch me surf.
It was an offer I would never pass up. I paddled out, a set came, my hat flew off and on the next wave I dove off the board to grab the hat still floating a few yards in front, forgetting for a nanosecond the leash and board were still attached and now behind me.
SMACK. “Bonehead move, Stanger!” the voice inside my head screamed.
A hard, epoxy, heavy longboard went straight to the side of my head. My head was pounding, but I figured it was MINOR . I did a quick check to see if it was swollen, like when I hit my head with a surfboard in Indonesia and a golf ball size lump took over my face for a few hours.
Check. No golf ball on my face. I hopped back on my board and started paddling back outside to catch a wave. As I reached down to take a stroke, though, I noticed my hand that I used to check for a lump was covered in red.
This would normally have made me freak out, but then it all came back.
And then I started laughing. Really. I am not one to love blood. I shrivel and wail at the slightest paper cut …but it felt like deja vu.
I thought back to over a year and a half ago when I had been reveling in the fruits of my newly single lifestyle when I surfed after a late night out, smacked my lip open with my board, then called my friend crying on the way to the ER.
What came out of my mouth to him I should never admit on paper let alone a blog, but now I think it’s hilarious.
It would have been normal to tell him I was worried I would not be able to eat or drink since my lip had a hole in it. Instead I mumbled something about never being able to kiss another guy and becoming the latest poster child for Jessica Simpson’s cleft lip foundation. I know… so messed up. Who says these things?
Apparently I did. And my friend never lets me forget it.
Long story short… I took a wave in, and the student who lent me her board was on the beach looking at me with horror.
“Okay, one or two stitches?” I asked, somewhat joking not thinking I really needed stitches since I knew saltwater mixed with blood makes things appear worse. She’s a mom of nine kids so I knew she would be straight with me. She gave me a sympathetic smile and said three.
Had this happened in the USA, no big deal. Had it even happened during 9am to 5pm in a small town in Costa Rica, it would not have been a problem. But it was 5:30pm, the doc’s office was closed, and I needed to be at an award’s ceremony in an hour. I ran through my options.
1. Find a doctor on vacation, bat my eyelashes and beg him to stitch me up. Offer him beer and the chance to dine with the nine ladies I was teaching to surf.
2. Use the bottle of superglue in the fridge and pray.
3. Suck it up, stick a bandaide on it, deal with a adding another scar to my face. Not exactly something I wanted to do.
Just as I was exiting the beach to shower off, I saw the town doctor on the sand…. only in Nosara. He was getting ready to surf himself. Me being me, and injury prone, the doc and I already knew each other. We met last year and I learned he was my age, in a punk band and a huge fan of Vans shoes. We became friends instantly.
I promised him Vans shoes if he’d stitch me up after he surfed. The doc laughed and said of course he’d open his office for me … after he surfed.
I walked back the gravel road, jumped in the shower at my hotel, chugged an Imperial to mitigate my headache (it worked wonders), threw on a dress for the awards ceremony, then hopped on the back of my other instructor’s ATV to go to the doc’s office. (She was awesome btw and the ladies in our group didn’t even know anything happened).
The doctor arrived dripping wet, board shorts on, shirt off. I did not complain (his wife is gorgeous and so is his kid… but uhh.. yeah, it made getting stitches so much more fun.)
He changed into his medical gear, and I think it took him a whole ten minutes to stitch my cut with four little stitches that I didn’t even feel him sewing into my head. My lip had about 20 stitches.
Afterwards, the doc gave me a ride down the dirt road to my awards ceremony dinner and I still had twenty minutes to spare. When the ladies arrived, I had a glass of wine in my hand, stitches in my head and an awesome story to tell. They loved it!
Lessons learned: Cover your head, don’t ditch your board for a cheap trucker hat, always make friends with the town doctor, and carry a first aide kit when on a surf trip.