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Helmet credited with saving pro surfer’s life after nasty wipeout

Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 8:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Veteran professional surfer Mikey O’Shaughnessy is no stranger to navigating some of the world’s biggest waves.

But sometimes, even the pros run into trouble.

O’Shaughnessy is recovering at an Oahu hospital after hitting his head on the reef at Pipeline following a brutal wipeout in high-surf advisory conditions.

Fellow pro Billy Kemper saw the incident unfold and was among the many to bring him ashore.

“When I seen him fall, I knew he was in a really critical position,” Kemper said.

“I was talking to Koa Rothman and was like c’mon Mikey, pop up, pop up and after two waves of him not surfacing, I said Koa let’s go and I just started paddling as fast as I could towards him.”

Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguard Kyle Foyle was in the water at the time and also sprung into action.

“I did about two compressions on him when he started spitting up and breathing on his own and kind of opening his eyes,” said Foyle, who is also part of the North Shore Lifeguards Association.

“But at that time, he was out. Luckily, he was wearing a helmet. If he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I’m pretty sure it would have been another incident we’ve had in the past where we’re picking up pieces.”

Kemper also credits O’Shaughnessy’s use of a helmet in preventing a tragedy.

“I have the helmet here and his board and by the looks of that helmet, both sides of his temple, the helmet is blown open and cracked,” Kemper said. “So if that happens to a helmet, do the math and you can understand what would have happened to his head on the reef.”

Earlier this afternoon, O’Shaughnessy, from his hospital bed, posted on Instagram to thank those who rescued him and announce he’ll be making a full recovery.

“To see his smile brought nothing, but tears to my eyes,” Kemper said.

“I’m just really, really grateful that he’s still here with us. When I got his body yesterday, I was, I’ll be honest with you, I was very scared.”

Kemper added this isn’t going to stop O’Shaughnessy from returning to Pipeline and when he heads back, the North Shore’s lifeguards are ready to respond to any scenario.

“It’s such a scary wave,” Foyle said.

“It doesn’t care what size or strength. It’s just kind of a roll of the dice.”

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