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Dusty Payne: Back From the Dead Catching Up with Maui’s Favorite Son

Photos: Tom Carey

In between doctors and dentist visits, we had the chance to catch up with Dusty after his near-death wipeout at Backdoor. Have you ever heard the expression, “kick a man when he’s down?” God sure hadn’t. Dusty’s been through the ringer but the warrior in him keeps getting back on that horse. We’re lucky to still have this talent around. And we look forward to some healthy years. We all know his potential and we patiently wait for that first edit to make its way around the digital world.

Hey Dusty! How you been?

Hey how’s it going. Well considering the start to the year I had, I am doing excellent and happy to be alive, happy to be able to see my family and friends again and do just about everything else I was able to do before my accident. Every day has its little improvements and now I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully get back in the ocean soon.

Where you at right now?

I’m just back home with my family staying with them while I’m recovering, they’ve been such a huge help and been by my side the whole time.

What are some of the surgeries and procedures you’ve had done since your injury? What have you had to endure?

Well when the accident happened on January 8th. I don’t remember anything from that point until probably about January 25th. So during that gap of 15 days I endured a couple different surgeries. They had to do a tracheotomy so I could breathe. They also had to clear the water that was in my lungs and wait for the swelling in my head to go down until they could perform surgery on the multiple fractures I had on my skull, which was about a 5-hour surgery where they basically pulled my face off. And my jaw was broken in two places. Since that initial surgery to repair the jaw I’ve had to go under two other times to fix it since it wasn’t healing correctly. In total I’ve had my mouth wired shut for about 11 weeks. But I finally just had that removed last week and starting to eat soft foods again.

When do you plan to get back into the water?

As soon as possible! I’ve been going down to the beach jumping in the water and just swimming. Just being in the ocean is such a blessing. That’s the best place in the world and I can’t wait to get back in the ocean with a surfboard.

What are your plans? What’s next for Dusty? What can we expect from you?

Well the plan now is to just get myself as healthy as possible. I just want to be able to have a clear head and I just need to give myself time to recover from such a serious concussion and all the fractures I had. I’d love nothing more than to get back to competing and getting on some good surf trips and spend as much time as I can making up for lost time.

With all of these setbacks, does it make you that much hungrier?

For sure, I just love surfing and whenever I’m able to be in the ocean doing what I love to do and have done my whole life. I guess you could say I am hungry to get back in the water.

Do you plan on doing the QS again? Is making the tour that important to you at this point in your life?

I’d love to be back on tour. You know I’ve always thought that was such a special place to be and a great place to improve your surfing and just be able to compete with my peers and the people who I respect. It’s not that it’s so important to be there but I’ve just always loved the challenge of it, and the level of competition.

How do you feel about surfing Pipeline again?

I really want to get back out there just to sort of make my peace with Pipe and thank Pipe for everything and all the memorable moments. It’s definitely one of my favorite waves and I’d love to make more special memories out there!

You plan on wearing a helmet out there?

I probably should…but I feel like, if something like what happened is meant to happen, then it’s gonna happen whether I’m wearing a helmet or not.

How much weight did you lose with your mouth wired shut?

I actually gained 25 lbs. back. My family and friends around Maui made sure I was never hungry. When the accident happened and I was in the hospital for about 3 weeks I lost about 30lbs.

Anything you’d like your fans to know?

I’m just so grateful for all the support and messages from around the world, from friends, family, and people I have never even met. All that positive energy helped me improve when I was in the hospital, so I just want to thank everybody for that. Also I want to thank Keoki Saguibo, Ulualoha Napeahi, Mikey O’Shaughnessy, and Tai Van Dyke and the North Shore lifeguards for saving my life! Without these angels I can say that there’s no way I’d be here today to answer these questions.-WY

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