For all the focus and attention we tend to put on waves, it’s the people we share them with that are the true blessing of the surf experience. Empty waves are great, but mates are what really make a trip memorable, whether it’s a boat trip in Indo or a day trip to your local beachie. And once in awhile, your mates just might save your life too.
Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you that Glenn Barnes is just about the best mate you could ask for. He travels well, always keeps things positive, and goes out of his way to make sure everyone is taken care of, whether he’s visiting you, you are visiting him, or you are chasing waves in a foreign zone together.
He’s also a shit-hot surfer who used to mix it up with the likes of Simon Law in regional comps, and was on his way to a surfing career before getting sidelined by a rugby accident and a broken neck at the age of 19.
Two decades later, Glenn is fully recovered from his neck injury, and is a standout at his local breaks on the central coast of NSW in Australia when he isn’t sneaking away for low-key barrel strikes with those of us lucky enough to call him a friend.
It was low-tide and the bank was dredging, and Glenn sent it on the largest wave of a set, pulling in and getting bounced head-first on the sandbar as the wave imploded. When he didn’t surface, Ben immediately paddled toward his board, which ended up tombstoning for three waves.
He dove and found Glenn unconscious underwater, then pulled him to the surface by his feet before swimming him to the beach and clearing his airway. After a minute of CPR, Glenn regained consciousness, “coughing up what seemed like 10 litres of water and complaining of pain in his neck.”
Worried that Glenn had re-injured his neck and that he would have complications from the near drowning, Ben ran to the car to dial emergency personnel, while Riko stayed with Glenn and made sure he didn’t lose consciousness again.
After being stabilised by the paramedics, Glenn was driven to Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, where he was treated for four days in the ICU before being released home with a shoulder injury, but an otherwise clean bill of health.
“I’m just happy to be alive,” said Glenn when he emailed me a few days ago to let me know he was alright. “My mates saved my life, no doubt about that. For two guys who had no training with rescues like that, they took control of the situation and did everything right, and I have them to thank for the fact that I am still here. You can’t ask for better friends than that.”
“Barndog is just lucky that my favourite show was Baywatch when I was a grom,” quipped Ben. But all kidding aside, everyone who knows and loves Barnes is breathing a sigh of relief this week that he is okay, and that he has mates like Ben and Riko in his life.
As a friend of Glenn’s who has been in the water for two other near-drownings over the past 12 months, I’d like to personally thank his crew for looking out for him last week, and to encourage everyone to stay current with their ocean rescue and CPR/first aid skills and certifications.
Here’s wishing Barndog a quick recovery, and hoping we see him in the water again soon.