On the 27th of May 2015 I broke my leg and ankle whilst paddling out in Italy. We were right at the end of our first run of the middle Sermenza, when I hopped out of my boat to inspect the last rapid, I slipped off a wet rock and fell about four feet into a shallow pool and came down on a jagged rock that was just under the water with my right leg. I felt the immediate pain of what I thought was my ankle dislocating. I realised that my foot was completely turned around so facing behind me and set about wrenching my foot back around to face the right way, so I could at least get back into my boat.
The rest of the crew arrived on the beach, helped me to my feet and I then immediately realised that this was far worse then I had thought. The boys were great, we got my leg splinted up using a roll of duct tape and 2 pieces of a spare split paddle to hold it firm, then they set off in opposite directions to find the easiest way out. A group of Czech boaters caught us up at this point and set about helping me and the others crawl over the 500 yards of huge boulder and then carry me up the extremely steep path to the top of the gorge (no mean feat being as I'm 6'7” and was about 18 stone) which took around three hours. They then went back down the gorge to paddle the rest of the run to get to the normal get-out where our shuttle driver and my new fiancée Rhoswen (we got engaged the previous morning, at the foot of the top drop of the Egua) who immediately came to collect me.
After an operation to screw my ankle back together a couple of months in a cast and enough time spent playing on the Playstation for a lifetime, I am just about walking without crutches -well more stumbling about. I've been back in the boat a few times and looking forward to the next paddling mission to Scotland, before coming home for the final operation and more time laid up.
I believe that this probably wouldn't have happened if I had been wearing suitable footwear for the environment that I was in, something like the Astral Rassler or Palm Gradient boots. Not only would I probably not have slipped but the additional support offered would have saved my ankle. Unfortunately I have size 14 feet and extremely long legs, meaning I can only fit the thinnest of neoprene boots (that are only really suitable for playboating or beachwear) inside even the biggest creek boat available. I am hoping that Astral's new Hiyak boot will be a suitable compromise in terms of support and grip verses size .
Finally I need to give a big shout out and huge thank you to Jon Leadley, Joe Sheppard, Roy McHale, Jack Andrews, Rhoswen Jones and the Czech crew whose names I have unfortunately forgotten in the moment. Also a big thanks to Chris Williams (aka Taff), Elliot Harrison and Steve Marfleet for the many phone calls and keeping my spirits up whilst being stuck indoors over the past few months. Cheers lads the beers are on me!