Maroochydore man Gordon Marsden broke his neck in the surf as he bodysurfed at Mooloolaba.
Maroochydore man Gordon Marsden broke his neck in the surf as he bodysurfed at Mooloolaba.

Surfer paralysed within 60 seconds

GORDON Marsden's life changed in less than 60 seconds, doing what he loved the most – body surfing at Mooloolaba Beach.

Mr Marsden, 61, broke his neck and is paralysed from the chest down after being dumped by a wave while swimming between the flags on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking from his hospital bed, he told how he was lying in the water, face forward, only able to “flap my arms” as he waited for someone to rescue him.

“It was the first wave I was catching of the day. I didn't tuck in and roll with it and went head first in the sand. I was paralysed straight away.

“Three times I said to myself (while lying face forward in the water) ‘I can't breathe ... I hope someone finds me ... I hope someone finds me soon.”

Thankfully he was pulled out of the water by three bystanders and the “fantastic” lifesavers came to his rescue while his wife of 37 years, Joyce, watched the horror unfold from the water.

The couple wanted to tell their story as a warning to others of the dangers of body surfing at the beach they both love.

“I don't think many tourist realise the dangers,” Mrs Marsden said.

“Gordon was an experienced body surfer. I'm happy for his story to be out there in the hopes it will help other people.”

Mooloolaba has long been considered Queensland's most dangerous beach for spinal injuries.

“It's Mooloolaba Beach, I should have known better,” Mr Marsden said.

“I was stupid, it was low tide, dumping surf. The guy next to me said before I took it ‘that's a dumper', but I thought I could ride it. I was short-changed.”

Mr Marsden didn't think more warning signs advising of the dangers would have stopped him from taking that fateful wave.

“It wouldn't have changed what I did, but it might stop a tourist.”

An ambulance took Mr Marsden to Nambour Hospital where he was x-rayed, the result confirming their worst fears.

He has been transferred to Brisbane's Princess Alexandra hospital where he was expected to spend “months” learning how to cope with his circumstances.

“He is paralysed from the chest down, but the next few weeks will tell a lot,” Mrs Marsden said.

“Thankfully he is not on any life support, he can breathe and move his arms, but he can't close his fist or fingers and he can't pick anything up.”

Mrs Marsden said her husband was an optimist, but “he is feeling for me as much as for himself”.

“He keeps saying ‘I ruined your life”. It is a horrible to thing to say, but I understand how he feels,” she said.

“We'll deal with this, we've been married for 37 years and have two wonderful children.”

The couple moved to the Coast from Brisbane three years ago, have been part of the Horton Park Golf Club and regularly stayed at the Mooloolaba caravan park to enjoy time at the beach.

All this will now have to change.

“He's going to need a lot of therapy and I'm going to need counselling on how to move him, turn him over and lift him,” Mrs Marsden said. “He's been a big golfing fan, but I guess he's played his last game of golf ... had his last surf.”

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