The Ugliest Fin Gash You Ever Did See - And How To Treat It

Craig Jarvis

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Updated 171d ago

A month or two ago we published a story about surfer Julian Werts, who got into Indo just before lockdown -- specifically, he got stuck at Super Suck and you can revisit that legendary story HERE.

The piece had the immortal phrase: "They closed the borders, everything got cancelled. I got shut-in, and I stayed at Super Suck for four months. Pigdog heaven."

Not the worst place to be stuck.

Not the worst place to be stuck.

© 2021 - Miah Klein.

Well, as you could maybe recall, Julian is an American surfer who moved to South Africa more than 20-years-ago. He has been having the adventure of a lifetime, blasting pics on Instagram of perfect, empty Mentawais, of Bali as uncrowded as 1982, of surfing gnarly Greenbush with Kolohe Andino, Griffin Colapinto, Crosby Colapinto, Ian Crane, Luke Davis, and of getting pitted at all the spots in the Playgrounds and further south.

With idle hands, Julian and friends plotted another mission. "The plan was to take the Kai Koa military-style speed boat on a strike mission from Bali to Desert Point on Lombok," he said. "This boat does 40 knots through any conditions and can do Bali to deserts in 50 minutes."

Some slight grazing....

Some slight grazing....

Good plan, in theory. To take away the hardcore missioning to Deserts does make it that much more enticing a destination. 

"We arrived just after 7am, to find semi-glassy conditions and some clean sets peeling down the reef,” recalls Julian. "Being November, we needed to get out there right away. At this time of year, there are no more trades, and the wind can change at any time." 

Without trades, for those of you that might not know, the perfect reef waves of Indo tend to collapse on themselves without barrelling, making them a tricky challenging ride. They need an offshore to hold them up.  

"I caught one little one to get things started and then paddled halfway up the point to wait for a set," Julian said. "Next set was a good size, and I swung and went, pretty much a barrel off the take-off, I made it through a section, only to get chandeliered and pitched a bit too high on the face, going over with the lip."

A wipeout is a wipeout, but at Desert Point, a straight forward wipeout could be a disaster in the making. That reef is gnarly and super shallow. I put my hand to my head and felt the hole immediately

"I was so sure I was going to connect with the reef, but to my surprise, I didn't. Swimming up for the surface, I was pretty happy about that, I popped up, only to be struck on the head as I broke the surface. I knew right away I'd been hit by my board. I put my hand to my head and felt the hole immediately. Within seconds the ocean around me ran red, and so much blood was streaming down my face I couldn’t see jack."

The wave the sent Julian down.

The wave the sent Julian down.

© 2021 - Surfing Lens.

With blood gushing, Julian had to deal with one of those pesky Desert's sets spoken about earlier, turning this into a worst-case scenario.

"The problem on hand was dealing with the six waves behind, pushing me onto the reef and into ankle-deep water. My only thought was to deal with it and get back to the boat as quickly as possible. I got rag-dolled pretty good by the first few before I was able to stand and wait out the rest."

With a head wound, you can never see how nasty it is and the ocean washing through the cut tends to make it seem much worse than what it is. Luckily Julian was not alone as he stood on the coral heads. 

“There were two Brazilians caught with me, and as I looked over at them, I just remember the shock in their eyes as they saw me," recalls Julian. "I called one of them over to have a look. He reluctantly approached the blood bath and confirmed that indeed I had a cut. I asked, 'am I good to paddle back out?' The answer was a definite negative. He said the cut was clean but big. I was done." 

Julian started clambering across the reef, looking for a gap in the coral, with enough water, so that he could paddle to the boat. "I made it off the reef and paddled back to the Kai Koa. Troy, the captain, spotted me and motored over. When on the boat, we assessed the situation. We didn't have stitches or super glue, so we improvised. Applying pressure with a disinfectant wipe got the bleeding under control. We were in the middle of nowhere, and the other crew were in the water. There wasn't much choice about what to do. He cleaned it as best he could. Luckily it wasn't reef, so the wound was fairly clean already." 

Julian's had months to flirt with Super Suck.

Julian's had months to flirt with Super Suck.

That was probably the difference. A grinding head wound with a deep cut from a coral head can leave debris inside, and the most crucial job then becomes the scrub -out—the cleaning program. I remember years ago helping one of the Surfing Doctors in G-Land dealing with a local fisherman whose boat had capsized and who took a mast to the head. His skull was cracked, but there were splinters and sand in the wound. I was the guy who had to keep the doctor supplied with water that had been boiled. The scrubbing process was quite ghastly. He took a picture so I could see what I was dealing with, and we were both satisfied with the result. I cracked a beer

"Troy cut up a big band-aid into strips to butterfly the wound," said Julian. "He stuck one side of the band-aid to the skin, pulled the wound together, then stuck the other side down. Being bald helped the process. He repeated this six times. He took a picture so I could see what I was dealing with, and we were both satisfied with the result. I cracked a beer." 

After some stitching improv, time to crack an ice cold chiller.

After some stitching improv, time to crack an ice cold chiller.

By the time the boat started heading back to Bali, Julian was feeling alright.

"By the time we got back to Bali just after sunset, it was too late for a hospital run. I wasn't overly excited about that prospect anyway due to COVID. I had no pain, no swelling and felt fine for the most part. I decided to sleep on it. In the morning it looked good, very little weeping, no swelling and the cut held together nicely. I spoke with a doctor friend in Newport Beach who thought I probably needed staples or stitches depending on how deep it was. The Surfing Doctors felt the same, but it was dry now and looked pretty good to me, so I just left it alone. Besides, chicks dig scars." 

Julian has decided to chill for a while. Remember this is the guy who, while stuck in a tiny losman at Super Suck during lockdown managed to put away 500 – odd hours of chilling in a hammock, so resting up is second nature to him. 

"I started taking antibiotics just in case. The bandages are still on my head, and for now, it's under control. I've been laying low in the air conditioning drying it out. I'll be out of the water for a while, but all things considered, things could have been much worse. Sometimes you gotta pay to play. It's part of what we do."