ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'Lost my best mate': Twin of critically-hurt surfer on brother's 'long, hard' recovery

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Feb 2024, 1:45PM
Matthew Scott was flown to Middlemore Hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries while surfing at Mangawhai Bar. Photo / Givealittle
Matthew Scott was flown to Middlemore Hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries while surfing at Mangawhai Bar. Photo / Givealittle

'Lost my best mate': Twin of critically-hurt surfer on brother's 'long, hard' recovery

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 23 Feb 2024, 1:45PM

The twin brother of a man critically hurt after slamming head-first into a sandbar while surfing at a popular Northland beach says he’s “lost his best mate” while he waits for his sibling to recover from his injuries in hospital. 

More than $18,000 has been raised by the Mangawhai community in under a day to help fund the rehabilitation of Matthew Scott, which shows the love and commitment of the locals, his brother told the Herald. 

Scott, 32, suffered critical spinal injuries during the incident at Mangawhai Bar on Sunday morning, prompting a major rescue by surfers, lifeguards and ambulance staff. 

His identical twin brother Justin told the Herald he was utterly shocked to receive the call about his brother’s accident, as Matt is a talented and capable surfer who has been riding waves at Mangawhai since he was a child. 

Matt Scott (left) and his identical twin brother Justin.Matt Scott (left) and his identical twin brother Justin. 

“It’s like his break that he surfs frequently, every single day when he was living in Mangawhai. He’s really experienced with that break, so it was quite a shock.” 

Matt is currently in Middlemore Hospital and Justin says it’s a waiting game to see what level of injury he has been left with. 

“He’s got an incomplete spinal cord injury which is positive and negative. he’s going to be assessed next week for what that looks like what the future looks like, but he is showing some really good signs of early-stage recovery.” 

Matt’s internal organs are all okay, which Justin credits to his level of physical fitness as a surfer of more than 20 years, and he can feel his forearms and chest - although Justin said this could be phantom pain. 

“He’s doing the best with what he’s got at the moment.” 

“I’ve lost my best mate, my walking buddy, the person I send messages to every day - because he has no hand function at the moment. It’s really weird” 

Givealittle page set up for Scott on Thursday night has already raised more than $18,000 to support Matt’s recovery and Justin said any additional funds would be donated back to the Surf Club, which his family has been involved in for generations. 

“[Matt has] done rescues by himself, he’s resuscitated people, he’s done all sorts of things. So I think the amount that’s been donated is a real reflection of the Mangawhai community and the surf club community and how much people love that.” 

Fellow surfers and lifeguards were at the scene performing an “outstanding rescue” on Scott, who has a strong family history associated with the Mangawhai Heads Surf Club. 

Scott was flown to Middlemore Hospital, where he remains in a “serious but stable condition”. 

Matthew Scott was flown to Middlemore Hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries while surfing at Mangawhai Bar. Photo / GivealittleMatthew Scott was flown to Middlemore Hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries while surfing at Mangawhai Bar. Photo / Givealittle 

Witness Christian Nicolson told the Herald he was paddling back out to the surf on the Mangawhai Bar when he saw Scott take off on a wave. 

“I heard him yell, ‘No! Oi!’ as he was trying to let another surfer know he was on the inside of the wave, but it shut down on him,” he said. 

Nicolson said Scott took a fall and slammed into the sand head-first. 

“I saw the guy just bobbing up and down in the water, face down. It looked like he was swimming and I thought maybe he was just angry at the other guy that he yelled out at, but I didn’t really think anything of it,” he said. 

When Nicolson asked him if he was okay, there was no reply. 

Nicolson and another surfer paddled over to Scott and rolled him over in the water. 

“He told us he’d broken his neck and he couldn’t feel anything so we just tried our best to get him into shore away from the breaking waves. One guy was cradling him and holding him above water as best he could, we didn’t know what to do,” said Nicolson. 

Three surfers waited with Scott, floating in the water for about 15 minutes, before lifeguards arrived to assist. 

“He wasn’t screaming out in pain, he just said he had a bit of a sore neck and couldn’t feel anything else. We were just trying to keep him calm and say nice things while he was at the mercy of others I guess,” Nicolson said. 

A Surf Life Saving spokeswoman said the incident occurred just before 10am on Sunday, with surf lifeguards not yet on patrol, but Junior Surf was underway. 

She claimed that Scott had collided with another surfer. 

“A surf lifeguard paddled out on a kneeboard, and when they saw it was a suspected spinal injury, flagged down a fishing boat. They then returned to the beach on the boat to retrieve an Inflatable Rescue Boat and a spinal board,” she said. 

Nicolson said the experience was “pretty awful, especially when I looked at him and he was really upset. It was pretty hard not to feel emotional at that point”. 

“It’s quite scary, definitely a sobering experience to be in close contact with someone that’s had quite a bad injury in a sport you love.” 

The bar break at Mangawhai Heads (right) has powerful waves breaking on a shallow sand bottom, with rips created by the estuary. Photo / John StoneThe bar break at Mangawhai Heads (right) has powerful waves breaking on a shallow sand bottom, with rips created by the estuary. Photo / John Stone 

Residents say the incident has highlighted the dangers of the popular surf spot, which is now drawing many inexperienced surfers from out of town. 

“It’s quite a mean, dumpy break because it gets quite shallow on the sand bar, and it was crowded with surfers on Sunday,” said Nicolson. 

“It’s definitely not the sort of place that beginners should be going out. I don’t know if he [Scott] was inexperienced or not, but that sort of thing can happen to anyone, I guess.” 

One of Scott’s surfing friends, Brook Wharfe, said it had been only a matter of time before something like this happened on the dangerous bar, where waves combine with the estuary currents to break forcefully on a shallow sand bottom. 

Wharfe was also surfing Mangawhai Bar on Sunday morning but got out of the water before Scott’s incident after suffering a minor back injury in the powerful surf. 

While he did not know exactly what happened to Scott, he said Mangawhai Bar was becoming dangerous, with too many inexperienced surfers coming out and getting in the way. 

The spot is popular with both residents and people travelling from Auckland. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you