But even for a spry 19-year-old like Bierke, things can go wrong in the water quickly, which is what happened on Wednesday while he was surfing 15-to-18-foot waves in Port Campbell in Victoria. Thankfully, 11-time world surfing champ Kelly Slater was there to save Bierke’s life.
According to The Standard, Bierke was surfing with Kelly Slater, Ross Clarke-Jones, Tom Carroll and Ryan Hipwood when he took an inside wave towards the end of the session, wiped out and was knocked unconscious by his board.
As Bierke told The Standard, “It was one of the smaller waves of the session. Hippo said it was the smallest wave we caught all day. It was a freak accident. I don't really remember but the wave did something big like dropped out and my board must have hit me.”
The surfers in the lineup all sprung into action, with Ben Serrano putting him on a jet ski from the surf club that was already out in the water keeping an eye on the surfers. Slater helped get Bierke on the sled and they rushed the long distance in to the beach. Normally a 20-minute paddle, Bierke might not have made it if the ski hadn’t been there.
— The Standard (@WboolStandard) April 20, 2017
Spending about 45 seconds submerged, Bierke took on a lot of water, as well as receiving a gash in his neck that was bleeding heavily. The crew got Bierke to the sand and Slater told Jordan Lockett, who was attending a training day at the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club, to call an ambulance. A paramedic who also happened to be walking by gave Lockett a tank of oxygen from the surf club.
Lockett told The Standard, “Kelly said ‘Call an ambulance’ then I was relaying down the phone what Kelly Slater was telling me – the vital signs. He’s got a pulse, he’s breathing but he’s not well. He was very disoriented. I grabbed the oxygen and ran outside. So we got the oxygen on as quick as we could.”
The ambulance arrived in less than 10 minutes and Bierke was taken to the Warrnambool Base Hospital intensive care unit. He will remain in hospital until the weekend — and ultimately make a full recovery. Slater, doctors and Bierke all realized that without the jet ski, Bierke might not have lived.
“I know I’m pretty lucky from everyone I’ve talked to,” Bierke said in the hospital as he recovered. “It’s probably good I don’t remember much. The way everything came together was pretty lucky for sure. Everyone out in the lineup really helped, the paramedics and the crew and the hospital.”
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