'Gnarly' wave reveals brain tumour for Mount Maunganui surfer
GRAPHIC CONTENT: There was so much blood.
It was the worst wipeout Travis McCoy had ever experienced and it changed his life.
The 26 year old pressed his fingers on the gash just above his left eyebrow. The skin had ripped across the brow and up to his hairline exposing his skull.
His mate thought he'd lost an eyeball. He hadn't, but there was more to be grateful for.
The cut would later be stitched up at A&E, but not before the doctor suggested a cat scan for good measure and discovered a brain tumour that had been growing unknown in the back of McCoy's head.
"As soon as they told me I should ring someone close to me to be here for the news, I knew it was bad," McCoy said.
It was the gnarliest wave.
After surfing in Indonesia for four months, battling big waves in shallow reefs, McCoy was back in New Zealand.
Stormy weather at the end of August had created large swells around Mount Maunganui. So McCoy and a few friends took a couple of jet skis out to the sort of surfing spot locals don't tell out-of-towners about.
"The waves were bigger and thicker than I'd ever seen there. They were decent, 6 to 8 foot waves," McCoy said.
On his fifth wave, he pulled into the barrel and the board slipped out from underneath him.
"The power of the wave lifted me up and drove me into the fin and I hit the side of my head."
It was like getting hit with a bat.
"WACK - this big impact. My face went really hot and tingly and I came up pretty dazed."
McCoy said he doesn't really believe in fate, but said it was a crazy series of events.
"When I think about it, I came back from Indonesia early and I got back in time for those big swells.
"All these things lined up and in the end, that wave saved my life."
The tumour is in a place that is difficult for doctors to operate on.
"They don't want to operate. It's so deep in my brain and hard to get to. They can't just go in and scoop it out."
The surgery is also risky, because if anything goes wrong it could affect his nervous system on the right side of his body.
"It was a pretty lonely night, getting my head around that. I suddenly thought if I had died today...It's a haunting feeling."
McCoy now has to wait three months before his next doctor's appointment to assess the tumour.
He said doctors said the stage of his tumour could vary between one and four.
Stage four is bad, but if stage one, he could live with it for the rest of his life without much trouble.
"I do forget about it sometimes...I try to block it out. It could grow over the next 10 years or stay the same, you just don't know."
McCoy has surfed all over the world, from Fiji, Tahiti, Morocco, to Ireland, England and Indonesia.
He will continue to surf every day if he can, and is doing some beekeeping around the region.
"I'm 26, you know. There's still a lot of waves I want to surf.
"But I've lived a lucky life so far, I've caught some amazing waves in my life."