A surfer, interrupted

June 24, 2010|By Ashley Breeding

A little more than two years ago, surfer Nathan Gocke paddled out at his usual surf break, stoked to ride the four-foot swell that was rolling in on that foggy winter morning in the South Bay – the same way he did most Saturday mornings.

The 32-year-old Los Angeles native, who had been surfing since his early 20s, never dreamed it might be his last ride.

Gocke's life was about to change forever, as an accident at the break would leave him with a broken neck and paralyzed from the chest down.

"A wave kicked me the wrong way, took me up over the falls and threw me head first into the sand," he explains in Laguna filmmaker and Emmy nominee, Richard Yelland's, documentary, "Floating: The Nathan Gocke Story," which premiered Wednesday on Fuel TV.

The short film, produced by Academy Award nominee Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick, will air again at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.


In his story, Gocke goes on to relive that moment he realized – still floating consciously in the water – what had happened to him, and his journey through rehabilitation and his determination to get his life back.

Yelland, who grew up surfing at the Thalia Street reef and encountered many victims of spinal injuries in his six years as a Laguna lifeguard, said he was inspired early on to not only help people with spinal injuries, but to create a documentary.

"Many people with these injuries say they dream about flying or floating on clouds, and surfing is how they achieve that dream-like place. Their experiences have taught me to enjoy my ability to be in the water, a pleasure we surfers can take for granted and become greedy about. People like Nathan can teach us to really appreciate the feeling," he said.

Yelland co-founded They Will Surf Again with fellow Lagunan and pro-surfer James Pribram in 2000, an organization that raises awareness and money for people who have suffered from ocean-related spinal injuries.

The venture would lead him to partner with the Life Rolls On Foundation, which brought together the world's top surfers including Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, and LRO founder Jesse Billauer, who was also left quadriplegic from a surfing accident 12 years prior and who served as an enormous inspiration to Gocke through his own determination to overcome his disability and surf again.

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