I had just experienced an enormous moment in my life. It was Saturday, 20 May 2008, and we were in one of the most remote parts of Indonesia, and breaking my neck was just the start of an incredible journey, a journey where whatever could go wrong, did go wrong…’
Darren ‘Daz’ Longbottom’s love of surfing was instilled in him from day one. As the son of surfing pioneer and board-maker Rossco and older brother to legendary big-wave specialist Dylan, Daz grew up in Cronulla and paddled out with the world champions of the era from a young age.
Fast-forward to Daz’s adult life, and the remote Mentawai Islands was pretty much the last spot in Indonesia he hadn’t surfed. After Daz’s daughter turned one, he knew it was his time to take on the West Sumatran waves. Never could he have imagined, as he kissed his wife and child goodbye, how difficult the road back to them would be, or how his life would be so irreversibly and profoundly changed.
After Daz flew off a wave and hit his head on the board, a nail-biting rescue began. Instantly paralysed and drifting in and out of consciousness, Daz was a twelve-hour boat ride away from medical attention. After a terrifying jaunt on an unregistered helicopter, an emergency landing in the middle of a jungle, and a white-knuckle ride in a makeshift ambulance through the frenzied streets of Indonesia, Daz finally made it to the airport at Padang – which was, as luck would have it, closed.
The final hurdle on Daz’s path to recovery was finally receiving critical medical attention with a couple of weeks in a Singapore hospital. After Daz returned to Australia, the real battle began: the long road to rehabilitation and learning to live life as a quadriplegic.
Beyond the Break is a compelling story of mateship, resilience, and coming to terms with the life-changing consequences of riding a single wave.
You can buy the book here via Penguin Books.
About the Authors
Following early successes in competitive surfing, Darren Longbottom moved into the surf industry and eventually became the owner of a surf shop. He is now a father and a successful business owner. Beyond the Break is Daz’s first book.
In 2005, British author and journalist Tim Rushby-Smith fell from a tree while working as a tree surgeon and suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted in instant paraplegia. His experience of injury and the return to normal life led him to write a memoir, Looking Up, reflecting on his experience. He served a six-month stint as a columnist for The Times in London, writing about life as a wheelchair dad.
Daz and Tim met in 2009 when Daz had only just been discharged from hospital rehabilitation and Tim was visiting Australia with his Australian wife and their daughter. They stayed in touch, and Tim moved out to Australia from the UK in 2013. They now live in neighbouring towns on the south coast of New South Wales. The idea of writing an account of Daz’s experience was in part influenced by their shared understanding of the challenges of living with spinal cord injury, but the driving theme of Daz’s tale is of a more universal nature: survival against the odds.