Edouard Delpero on Keeping His Head Up
Edouard Delpero won the 2019 Surf Relik World Longboard Tour, scored a runner’s up position on the WSL World Longboard Tour in 2017 and is 4x European Longboard champion. He’s also a kick-ass shortboarder. And this isn’t even the most impressive thing about him. Only seven months ago, Edouard broke his neck surfing at Safi in Morocco, and he’s already back in the water and competing in the Qualifying Series. “It’s hard, I’m still struggling, but it’s important to keep your head up and keep faith. I’ve realized that it’s actually an opportunity to reset and focus on other things, then come back stronger.”
Photo by Ludovic Lasserre
In March this year Delpero paddled out at dusk at Safi, pumped for the long awaited swell and epic conditions. The tide was still a bit high, and the line up was busy, but he was determined to score a few waves before dark. “It was a heavy accident,” he recalls, “I pulled into a 5-6ft barrel and I rode it as well as I could, but then I saw the rocks were really close. I tried to jump through the wave as I wasn’t going to make it out of the barrel. It was too powerful and the lip sucked me back over and threw me onto the rocks.” He went on to explain how he instinctively covered his head, waiting for the moment when he’d impact with something solid. The right side of his head, protected by his shoulder and hand, hit first. “I rolled and hit another rock on the back of my head and my neck broke. Then I fell back into a deep patch of water.” Delpero broke the surface for a split second, managing to draw a breath before taking the next giant set wave on the head. “At this point I wasn’t sure if I’d make it out alive. I couldn’t move my right arm. I thought I was going to drown. Eventually my survival instinct allowed me to move and I managed to resurface. Luckily one of my friends was out on a jet ski. He saw me and came to pick me up really fast to get me out of the impact zone.”
After a rough night, Delpero headed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a C5 fracture and his neck was immediately immobilised. He spent another two weeks in Morocco, resting and trying to keep as still as possible, before heading back to France. “I went home, staying pretty positive about what was happening. I started my rehab after five weeks of immobilisation.”
“At first I was scared to take off my neck brace, but the physio helped me get through it. Super slow movements, just left and right and leaning my chin back and up and down, were so painful. It was pretty hard. I was worried about how long it would take to get full movement back.”
But, after more than a decade of competing, Delpero was desperate to get back on a surfboard and back on the competition circuit. He’d participated on the WQS from a young age, before moving his competitive focus to longboarding, and thrives in any opportunity to compete. Eager to get his points up, Delpero headed to Australia for a WSL event, after only a month and a half of rehab. “The preparation to get back in the water involved lots of reinforcement of my back muscles, plus mobility exercises and stretching. It was quite a challenge but it was really helpful.” However, Delpero didn’t feel totally ready when he paddled out in Aus, “I had nothing to lose so I competed. I did my best. It was quite scary but my surfing was definitely not 100%. I was struggling with my balance, and after such a long time of not surfing I wasn’t feeling confident with my neck in the water. I got 9th place, but it actually played in my favour, just in case I want to re-qualify. At least I got some points. Hopefully I’ll make the cut next year.”
However, the result in Australia didn’t knock Delpero’s confidence. He travelled from France to England this summer to take part in the LQS1,000 BFGoodrich Longboard Pro at Boardmasters in Newquay – an event that he’s won several times before. “I was really happy with myself for getting back in the water and competing, but I wasn’t so happy with the result.” Whilst Delpero smashed his heats, scoring 3rd place, he was gutted to not take the 1st place he needed to re-qualify for the European ranking. “It’s not over yet though,” he said, explaining how he’ll hopefully have another chance to qualify for the tour before next summer.
Delpero was also eager to start teaching again, at the Delpero Surf Experience, that he runs alongside his brother, Antoine in Biarritz. “After competing my main aim was to get back to the surf school. I was definitely struggling with my neck but I managed with the help of my brother.”
Photo by Ludovic Lasserre
Edouard Delpero’s perseverance to recover, his dedication to surfing and his love of competing are equally inspiring and impressive. “Everybody says it takes at least a year to get back to normal range with your neck after an injury like this. It’s been seven months now.” To be back in the water, charging on both longboard and shortboard, less than a year-post injury, is something that deserves recognition. We’re stoked to support Edouard, and are excited to see where his competitive nature and incredible drive take him.