The Tenacity of Trevor Carlson: How to Come Back From a Career-Ending Injury

Matt Rode

by on

Updated 24d ago

About 15 months ago, Trevor Carlson didn’t know if he’d ever surf again. Laid up in the hospital with a broken back and complicated ankle fracture, he was just beginning to come to terms with the fact that some of his biggest aspirations were quickly fading away.

Recently qualified for the Big Wave Tour, Trevor had suffered a sky diving accident on the North Shore, and free-fallen the final 50 feet during a routine landing. He’d landed on his feet, which may have saved his life, but the impact had crippled him—effectively ending the competitive big wave career he’d worked so hard to develop, and potentially finishing surfing for him altogether.

Free falling without a parachute.

Free falling without a parachute.

© 2019 - Hallman

Those first few weeks after the accident were pretty sobering for Trevor. He was on mandatory bed rest, and while the immobility was helping his broken bones heal, the lack of activity only served to add to the gloom that had surrounded him since the accident. But like many injured surfers in the past (think Taylor Knox, Mick Fanning, and Owen Wright), Trevor eventually found a way to win the emotional battle with his accident—and once that happened, he threw himself into rehab and training with a newfound gusto.

A year later, Trevor was back in the water, stronger than before the accident, and hungrier than ever. He’d lost his spot on tour, but not his desire to charge the world’s biggest waves—so he did what any heavier water fiend would do, and positioned himself for maximum exposure to XXL swells. Rather than chasing his tail every time a swell popped up, as he had in the past, Trevor took a more calculated approach.

Nazare, setting a global scale for what is possible in big waves.

Nazare, setting a global scale for what is possible in big waves.

© 2019 - Rafael Ellis

He based himself in Nazare for the early season run in November. Then spent December in Half Moon Bay, when Mavs saw numerous swells, including a mega-day the week before Christmas that was the setting for some of the biggest waves we’ve ever seen paddled in California. And when Hawaii turned on for the month of January, Trevor was there, sleeping in his own bed and splitting his time between Jaws, Waimea, Sunset Beach, and the outer reefs.

Are you picking up a pattern here? In the world of competitive big wave surfing, there are three places that matter right now—three waves that are on tour, in three locales that receive a ton of big swells.

© 2019 - Runamuck Photography

If Trevor wants to work his way back on tour—and he’s made it clear that this is the goal—then being in Portugal, California, and Hawaii when they are pumping is half the battle. The other half? Making sure you are in the water during all the major swells, swinging and going on the wave of the day, every day.

We’ll let the images of Trevor’s 2018/19 highlights speak for themselves.

© 2019 - Carranuejo

Locked deep, somewhere in Hawaii.

Locked deep, somewhere in Hawaii.

© 2019 - Pete Frieden

Multi-disciplined approach to big waves.

Multi-disciplined approach to big waves.

© 2019 - Auatography

JAWS.

JAWS.

© 2019 - Pompermayer

© 2019 - John Rodarte

© 2019 - Miguel Chabby

© 2019 - Pedro Bala

© 2019 - Aquatography

© 2019 - Shannon Quirk