By Max Wilshinsky
When my buddy Max “Shacks” Wilshinsky told me he was ready to share the tale of tails with the world, I cringed and laughed at the same time. It’s a nasty tale full of blood, gore and feces. It’s also full of the true stanky grit, conveying the obstacles that real surfers face. After literally getting bent over and taking it from an angry surfboard, Max is still charging harder than ever before.
Submit your surf stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Surf Columnist Elliott Rosenfeld
An anal fissure is a small cut or tear in the thin sensitive tissue of the lower rectum. It tends to hurt. Like most people, I was unaware of this before Veteran’s Day 2009.
The parking lot at Jalama Beach County Park was empty for a national holiday, and there were some overhead sets down the beach. After an hour of fun surf, everything went wrong. A backhand snap turned into a fin-impaling, butthole-tearing nightmare.
My friend Jace heard me shouting for help as I paddled into the beach. As I pulled my suit to my waist to check the extent of my injury, Jace pointed to the ground. Blood was streaming from my ankles and pooling in the sand. I took a few steps and fainted.
I always liked the walk back from the reef to the parking lot. It let me reflect on my session and all the great waves I shared with my friends. That day was different. A twenty-minute walk turned into an hour-long shuffle.
After I rinsed my tender bottom at the shower, I lay face down in the passenger seat while Jace loaded the truck. The drive back to SB was one of the most intense mental battles I have ever faced. Every slight bump and turn in the road forced my sphincter muscles to tighten, causing excruciating pain.
By the time we arrived at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, I was panicking. Would I have to shit in a bag for the rest of my life? Were my surfing days over?
After two hours, the first nurse responded to my moaning and pleading. Without warning, she yanked my butt cheeks open to analyze the damage. I screamed. She gasped.
“You can’t yell like that around here,” she said, reaching for a syringe full of Dilaudid. She continued to explain that the cut extended into my rectum and that they could not perform the surgery. I needed to see a specialist at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
I was so high on painkillers by the time they transferred me to the next hospital that the mood seemed to switch from serious to festive. There were some foxy nurses in the new emergency room so I tried to make the conversation as entertaining as possible. Given the circumstances, there was no lack of comedic content.
Thankfully, the butt specialist was able to sew me back together with 16 stitches; 14 for the sphincter muscles and two for the rectum.
When I woke up from surgery in my hospital bed four hours later, the patient in the bed next to mine was being discharged. The elderly gentleman whom he was with heard about my injury and was waiting for me to wake up. My memory was hazy from the drugs and his accent was thick, but I remember it being about doing what you love and living life. I was discharged the next day.
For the next few months, I woke up every day to a bloody stool. Coughing, sneezing, laughing and getting those last drops out at the urinal were no longer minor tasks. Worst of all, I couldn’t surf for almost two months.
When the doctor told me that I could get back in the water, he also told me I had to wear a watertight bandage. In order to do that I needed to remove any hair from the area. Stoked on the forecast for a solid west swell and itching to surf, I made my mom shave my butthole.
The remainder of my recovery went pretty smoothly thanks to stool softeners and a carefully monitored diet. The doctors told me that I experienced a pain threshold similar to what women go through during childbirth. Careful, ladies. It’s no fun.