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Family of critically injured surfer thanks rescuers who saved his life after collision

Author
Denise Piper,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Feb 2024, 3:13PM
The bar break at Mangawhai Heads (right) has powerful waves breaking on a shallow sand bottom, with rips created by the estuary. Photo / John Stone
The bar break at Mangawhai Heads (right) has powerful waves breaking on a shallow sand bottom, with rips created by the estuary. Photo / John Stone

Family of critically injured surfer thanks rescuers who saved his life after collision

Author
Denise Piper,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Feb 2024, 3:13PM

Family members of a surfer who suffered critical injuries after colliding with another surfer at a popular Northland beach have thanked rescuers who rushed to his aid and saved his life at the weekend.

Matthew Scott suffered spinal injuries during the collision on Mangawhai Bar on Sunday morning.

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

Scott was rescued by Mangawhai Heads Surf Life Saving and airlifted to Middlemore Hospital, where he is now in a serious but stable condition, the hospital reports.

Scott’s family shared “some sad news” on Facebook that he suffered a spinal injury, offering their thanks to the surf lifesavers and first responders who helped him.

“He will be on a road to recovery for the next wee while.

“The Scott whānau wants to say a massive thank you to the Mangawhai Surf Life Savers who rescued and looked after him and also a massive thank you to the first responders who also took great care of him. There was a lot of Mangawhai family and friends involved in the rescue and I know Matt would have felt in safe hands.”

Scott “has a lot of aroha around him and we are all very hopeful for the future”.

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 and 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 locals and people travelling from Auckland.

“In my lifetime, it has gone from a local crew to being very busy, especially in the last few years. There is just an influx of people that now have surfing available to them,” Wharfe said.

“There’s a lot of problems - a wave comes and all of a sudden you’ve got boards and people everywhere.”

Wharfe believed inexperienced surfers, or those who are not paddle-fit, should stick with surfing Mangawhai Beach or other nearby spots like Waipū, Langs Beach or Te Arai, where they would be in less danger.

On Sunday, the line-up was crowded, including a group of inexperienced surfers hanging at the end of the ride, he said.

Another group of young surfers nearly got in trouble on the same spot on Saturday night, but fortunately managed to make it out of the rip, Wharfe said.

“It was a matter of time before something like this happened and upsetting it happened to a beloved local,” he said.

“A bit of common sense would be great, as would a bit of respect for certain levels of surfing.”

Wharfe is also concerned about the way boaties push through the waves on Mangawhai Bar, rather than sticking to the deep channel just next to it, which is safe from waves.

He would like to see the channel marked, so skippers who are unfamiliar with the area avoid the shallow bar.

Boaties frequently require rescuing after flipping on the bar.

Denise Piper is a news reporter for the Northern Advocate, focusing on health and business. She has more than 20 years in journalism and is passionate about covering stories that make a difference.

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