8 am Saturday morning and I’m standing in start gates at South West Mountainboard Centre near Bideford, Cornwall. Next to me is Matt Coe and we’re about to drop in to our first run down the boarderX course. Later today this track will have some of the best mountainboarders in the country racing on it but this early it’s just Matt and I. Matt wants to get some practice before the competition starts and although I have no intention of competing I can pressure Matt to ride faster and consider his line down the track.
We pull out of the start gates and pump the first set of rollers for speed. Round the first berm I have the inside line and edge out in front. Round the next berm and Matt has the inside line. He comes out in front and I know that to have any chance of beating him I need to clear the next table top and get in front. As I hit the face of the jump I push off as hard as I can, trying for as much height as possible.
As I fly through the air with Matt behind me I angle my board down to meet the landing slope. Its only then that I see the landing below and behind me and I quickly realise that I’m going to miss it completely. With my board angled to land on a nonexistent slope I know there is no way I can ride out of this, the best thing i can do is get ready to roll and wait till I hit the ground.
Hitting the ground from higher than I wanted to be and faster than I should have been, I misjudged the roll. I started the roll too soon so rather than touching the ground with my hand and rolling down my arm and across my shoulder, instead I took the full force of the impact on the back of my shoulder.
I heard Matt ride off down the track as I unstrapped my bindings as crawled off the track into the long grass. I laid there with my shoulder and arm getting more and more numb. I don’t how long I laid there until I realised that the numbness wasn’t going away and that I would have to admit to myself that I had done some serious damage to myself.
“I think I’ve dislocated my shoulder”, I replied to the guy looking down at me after he’d asked if I was ok. “Can you call an ambulance?”, I continued. So off he went, and after over an hour of laying in the grass in adrenaline-come-down pain, an ambulance bumped its way down the field towards me.
The paramedic cut off my hoody (you’re always wearing your favourite hoody at times like these) and pads, examined my shoulder and agreed it was dislocated. After a brief discussion about whether he could put it back in so I could carry on riding, which involved an answer somewhere along the lines of “No chance, you need to go to hospital”, and after a couple of shots of morphine which seemed to have no effect, I was loaded into the back of the ambulance and dropped off at A & E.
Laying in the hospital bed answering questions from a slightly bemused junior doctor about how I had come to have my shoulder poking through my bicep, it was only when a more senior doctor asked if I could feel her touching my arm, which I couldn’t, that they quickly decided that they needed to do something now. I assume lack of feeling meant reduced blood flow or trapped nerves, or some other worrying complication, but whatever it meant they wasted no time knocking me out.
I woke with my arm in a sling, and my x-rays tucked under the other arm. A nurse said I could go so I shakily stood up, hung my shredded hoody around my shoulder and staggered in a daze out of the hospital. I don’t remember much else, the anesthetic had done a good job. I remember going into a shop to ask for directions and I remember walking along a main road, but other than that I don’t remember much at all. With no wallet or phone, and not really thinking straight, I just carried on walking. Twelve miles later I walked back through the gates of the mountainboard centre.
Dislocating my shoulder was the first serious injury I had from mountainboarding. I got away with minor bumps and scrapes for about four years of riding but then came a time when I wanted to push myself and progress my riding. And when you go beyond your abilities, outside your limits, the likelihood of the unexpected goes up. There’s a complacency that comes with believing that just because someone else can do something that you should be able to do it too, and that skills from a different type of riding should transfer. It was complacency that caused my accident. Sure, there were other factors, lack of skill and not starting with an warm-up run, but it was definitely complacency that caused my first serious injury from mountainboarding.