Not so long ago, life was good for Ben Cryan. He’d started a new job and was about to buy his first home. The 33-year-old civil engineer was also an avid surfer, and in January of 2011, he travelled with friends to a Micronesian surfing hotspot called Pohnpei, 3000km north of Cairns, for a 10-day surf trip.
On January 21, Ben was enjoying another day of surfing when the force of one particular wave took him by surprise.
“I knew it was dangerous. I still remember riding [the wave] – I was standing up and I was on it for quite a while,” he told Alex Cullen.
“You get to that point where you can pull out and get hammered by the wave, or you can pull into the barrel and go for the glory shot, as they say. I pulled into the barrel, and that was the end of it. It threw me down into the reef, and I landed on my bum.”
Ben was 20 minutes from shore and the razor-sharp coral had slashed him badly. By the time he was in the local hospital, he was blacking out.
When the news of the accident travelled to his parents back in Melbourne, his father was immediately concerned.
“I knew there was a problem with coral, with infection. When I spoke to Ben he said, ‘Dad, I’m scared’,” he told Cullen.
“Dad went into typical dad mode and panicked, and as it turned out he saved my life. I remember us taxiing down the runway, and just as we did I blacked out. I woke up three months later,” said Ben.