After hitting the reef at the 2014 Fiji Pro, Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) received 16 stitches from ASP's medical staff and returned home to Australia for additional treatment. She wasn't the only competitor who got hurt in the challenging conditions; Malia Manuel (HAW) also took a fall and injured her hand.
While Manuel was able to surf (and win) her next heat, Van Dijk made an early exit from Fiji and recovered at home in Australia. This week she's been back in action competing in the 6-Star Qualification Series (QS) event, the Los Cabos Open of Surfing. ASP caught up with her there for an update on how she's doing.
You had a tough run in Fiji. What exactly happened out there?
It was definitely tough. The whole week I was so excited to be in Fiji. It's hard to say it was tough when we were basically living life in paradise. It's just really unfortunate that I hit the rocks so early on. I really love that wave and I was having fun out there.
It was at the end of the heat and I pulled into a small closeout on the inside. Bianca (Buitendag) was surfing a wave right behind me so I paddled up the rocks because I didn't want to get in her way. It was so unlucky. The certain spot I was in, the wave just crunched on top of me and put me upside down and just threw me backwards. I felt it all up my hands and chest and chin. In my mouth I could feel everything was smashed up. Straight away I was really scared because I couldn't see it but I could see the blood.
You've had a number of bumps and bruises so far this year. You took a big fall into the rocks at Bells as well as Fiji. How are you handling it?
It's really random. I surf Bells all the time and I've never surfed into those rocks or even come near them. I guess it's been a little crazy this year, but I'm having an amazing time and that's all that counts, right?
Fiji was a new event for the women's Tour. How was it going there for the first time as an event competitor?
I've been out there before with my sponsor (Rip Curl) and been we've had some good practice. I felt good out there so it was really tough to have to leave. But it's one event and I had to look at my own health and the big picture.
I'm still so excited to have Cloudbreak on tour. It's even more than I expected. The girls just charged, even on the freesurfs. It shows we can surf and people caught onto that as well.
How long were you out of the water and what was the recovery like?
I got plastic surgery the day I flew into Australia and after that I was really beaten. I was in bed for about a week and then I started getting more energy and started to eat, but it was a pretty normal healing process. All the girls who saw me in Fiji who are here (in Cabo) are saying they can't even tell so it's pretty amazing. It was good to be with my family and have good food and nutrition to get me back on my toes.
Are you looking at the competition here in Los Cabos as a kind of fun rebound?
It's important for me to do this but I've overcome all these bumps and rocks and all these crazy things already. I've come with my sister and we're really enjoying the country. Too many tacos but a lot of good surfing.
Van Dijk is slated to compete next at the Women's WCT event, Vans US Open of Surfing, in Huntington Beach, CA.