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The Inspiring Story of Dusty Payne’s Return to Surfing | Relentless: A SURFER Magazine Profile Film


On January 8, 2018, Dusty Payne suffered a near-fatal wipeout at Backdoor on the North Shore of Oahu. After being hospitalized with a broken jaw and multiple skull fractures, Dusty underwent surgery and spent months recovering. This is his first interview back. “I don’t remember the start of the year to be honest.” “Like, I don’t remember…” “You know, yeah, I have no memory of 2018.” “Being in the hospital, the nurse was like trying to get me out of bed to move into a safe zone in the hospital.” “And they’re like, ‘a missile’s coming, we gotta get you to the middle of the hospital.'” “You know, I’m kinda like, I’m pretty out of it, hooked up to all these machines.” “That’s kind of the first memory I have, and then after that it goes – it’s just kind of black.” In October 2017, three months before Dusty’s wipeout at Backdoor, we sat down with him in Portugal to do an interview for this film.What was your favorite surf film growing up? “Magna Plasm.” “Bruce’s one at the end with the Mexican song.” “For me, that’s the best section ever.” “Like, I could watch that forever and get psyched to go surf.” “It just kind of brings back old memories of when I was a kid.” “I would turn on that movie, I’d put it in my VHS and I’d watch that, and then I’d drive down to the beach and surf for 10 hours.” “And that’s still what excites me is trying to get those old feelings of when I was a kid I think.” As a grom, Dusty spent all his time in the water and quickly became one of the best young surfers on his home island of Maui.In his teens, Dusty became a standout on the Volcom team, and his progressive flair landed him parts in some of the most iconic surf films of the 2000s. Dusty has since competed on the World Tour, pushed freesurfing to new heights and has become one of the most dynamic and celebrated surfers of his generation. “For me, just being injured and stuff, I just appreciate being able to be in the water, In the winter of 2017/2018, Dusty returned to Hawaii to surf his favorite waves at their best. and whenever I’m able to do that, that’s special for me.” “I get more buzzed having a good session with just you and your friends out when the waves are firing.” “You hold on to those moments when it’s just you and your friends and enjoying perfect waves.” Back in Portugal. What are your thoughts on competing today? “It’s hard, you know, you try to mentally prepare yourself to be like, you know what, whatever it is, I’m just going to stay in this kinda positive mindset, but when you get down there and you actually set it, and you’re just like, what am I doing here? You know?” “Like, I could be in warm water, I could be at home.” “You know, I could be doing a million other things, but, at the end of the day, it’s like, this is my job.” “Millions and millions of people wake up at five in the morning, they go to the gym, they work out, and then they go sit in a cubicle all day.” “I feel like I go down there and I watch guys surf and I’m like, wow, they’re way better than me and they’re not even sponsored.” “There’s a lot worse things you could be doing than surfing.” “After getting knocked out of the Cascais event in Portugal, Dusty met up with friends Balaram Stack, Mitch Coleborn and Nic Von Rupp to chase a fun run of swell up the coast.” Does Pipeline scare you? “I’m only scared of going left at Pipe.” “I dunno.” “I’ve been working on it.” “Since I’ve had my back surgery, I was really working on rotating more this way.” “But, for me, I’d rather go on a 10-foot closeout going right.” “But, I dunno, it’s just scary.” Three months later at Backdoor.After hitting the reef, Dusty was knocked unconscious and didn’t surface for five waves. “You know, when I woke up, I couldn’t really see out of my right eye because my eye socket was pretty much caved in and they had to kinda rebuild that whole area.” “I’ve got six plates in my head, three on my jaw.” “I fractured my jaw in two different places on each side of the jaw.” “And I broke my temporal bone in the back of my head.” “I just wanna really thank everyone who was there and helped save me and keep me alive today.” “From what I’ve been told, Keoki was there and pulled me out of the water.” “Mikey Red and Ulu Boi were there, and Tai, and the whole North Shore Lifeguard Association just for saving my life, and everybody who sent messages and their love while I was in the hospital, all the doctors and the medical staff at Queens for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.” In May of 2018, just four months after the wipeout that nearly killed him, Dusty returned to the water in Hawaii. “I have so much respect for Pipeline and Backdoor, you know, at the end of the day, Mother Nature controls everything, so I’m not going to change my approach to surfing it.” “I was meant to be in that situation, and I’m meant to be in this situation to try and come back from this.” “I just hope I’m able to inspire other people to not give up on their goals because of a setback no matter how dark times may seem, and I’ve just always tried to keep pushing on and do the best I can to get back to what I wanna do and that’s being in the water.” And thank you to all those who donated to our GoFundMe for the benefit of the North Shore Lifeguard Association.If it wasn’t for the knowledge and water extraction training of the guys who pulled me out of the water that day, my story would’ve been way different. “Just rolling in Hawaii like, I’m coming 73rd, but I could win Sunset and Haleiwa.” “There’s still a chance.” “So, you’re saying there’s a chance.” “Yeah, that’s what I feel like every year.” “Wow, Mitch, you’re coming 56th this year.” “You’re looking pretty good.” “Back-to-back wins at Haleiwa and Sunset.” “Yeah, man.” “I was like, yeah, everyone that qualifies now is 18.” “When I was 18, I was like, yeah, I’ve got two more years left in the juniors, then I’m gonna work with Kai and Volcom for about five years, build the profile up.” “I’ll be 25. Perfect age to just hit the WQS.” “Look at me now, I’m f**kin’ flyin’.” “It’s just crazy.” .


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