Quadriplegic returns to the surf 18 years after accident

A GOLD COAST man who broke his neck in an horrific body boarding accident 18 years ago will today return to the surf for the first time.

Justin ‘Tank’ Taylor, 38, was left a quadriplegic after he was dumped head first into a sandbank after failing to successfully execute a ‘Barrel Roll’ while boarding in the hazardous waters off Flat Rock, Currumbin on January 15 back in 1996.

Doctor’s told Justin it was a miracle he suffered no long term brain damage having gone without oxygen for between eight to 10 minutes after the initial impact.


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Justin was alone in the water at the time with no one around to notice he had failed to resurface.

In fact, it wasn’t until the force of the swell pushed his motionless body onto the beach, that he was found several minutes later.

Although Justin has no recollection of the immediate time surrounding the accident, he recalled the story as it has been told to him.

“I’ve been told a few teenagers were the first to stumble across me lying on the shore but they didn’t know how to perform CPR.

“A woman who was walking her dog on the beach that morning was second to find me and she saved my life.

That woman was the wife of the then President of the nearby Currumbin Surf Club, who immediately initiated CPR and made the initial call for help.

“She later told me that when she found me I looked dead and that she had only performed CPR because that is what she was trained to do when confronted with a dead body,” Justin recalled.

The Gold Coast’s CareFlight Rescue Helicopter was called in to airlift Justin to the Gold Coast Hospital in Southport where he remained in an induced coma for up to five days.

As his parents arrived at the hospital, they were told to prepare for the worst.

Justin would wake to learn he had broken his C6 vertebrae and as a result, was now a quadriplegic. He would never walk again.

Justin said his recovery has been a long learning process but he has managed to adapt to his new life, now independently living on his own in his Varsity Lakes unit.

“It has been a bitter pill to swallow, that is for sure,” he said.

“But you have to not focus on what you can’t do, but instead focus on what you can do.”

Justin was just 20 years young when he lost the ability to use his legs.

“At that age, you have big bold plans about what you want to do and achieve in life, but at the click of a finger, that can all change.”

Today, at 2pm, Justin will be joined by his close friends and family when he steps into the water for the first time since he was confined to a wheelchair those many years ago.

When asked if he was nervous about getting back into the water, Justin said he was more nervous about speaking to a reporter.

“I have had a number of ongoing health problems which have stopped me from getting out and about and back into the water.

“But, I have finally overcome those issues and right now, it’s happy days. I am happy.”

Long time mates Tim and Melinda are just as excited to see ‘Tank’ finally get back in the salt water.

“Tank is an amazing man who asks nothing from anyone,” Melinda said.

“He receives no help really and gets around in an old uncomfortable tacky wheelchair…he’s an angel and very humble. A true inspiration.”

The Currumbin Surf Club has generously offered to assist Justin down to the water with their squad’s quad bike.

“They have been fantastic with their services on such short notice,” Melinda said.

“They were very friendly and went beyond what we expected to make this happen,” Melinda said.

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