WORTHING kitesurfer Lewis Crathern admits he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received from the town after his crash in the Red Bull King of the Air event in South Africa earlier this month.
One of Worthing’s top sport stars, Lewis, 30, was put in a medically-induced coma for six days, owing to the amount of water which got into his lungs, after he was knocked unconscious when he fell 20 metres backwards into the water in the competition’s semi-finals.
The former British champion, who is world-renowned for his jumps over Worthing and Brighton piers, is now recovering well and is set to return to the town next month.
Lewis, one of the favourites to win the event, insists kitesurfing is safe and that he was pushing the boundaries of the sport to the extreme when his accident happened.
Social media was full of goodwill wishes for Lewis after his crash and, speaking exclusively to the Herald, he said: “I have been overwhelmed by all the support that came from home and I want to thank the people for that. By my hospital bed, countless messages and cards were up on the wall, I really believe this has helped my recovery rate.
“My parents had just visited me for the first time in Cape Town a month earlier and they were by my bedside when I woke up the first time.
“I’m very lucky to have parents like I do and the influence of my mother being a life-coach helped me stay calm. Going through an experience like this really bonds you as a family.
“I also have to thank my partner, Courtney, who is from South Africa but is moving to Worthing with me, she stood by me in every way. Her family were great, too.”
When he was woken from his coma, Lewis’s parents were at his bedside and his mother, Sandra, said: “There are always lessons to learn from these types of accidents, but I truly believe Lewis will be a true inspiration for others in the future, we are very proud of who he is and how much he has touched people’s hearts.”
The competition in South Africa is where 24 of the best kitesurfers in the world compete in the big air discipline.
Talking about his accident, Lewis said: “What I remember of the crash is it all felt fine but I came in backwards, which led to a hard hit to my head. It knocked me out straight away but, fortunately, other kiteboarders in my heat, Andries Fourie and Reno Romeu, were able to drag me to shore.
“It led to a me being placed in a medically-induced coma for six days, before spending a further six days in hospital.
“I was discharged after this time and am resting with my girlfriend’s family now in Fish Hoek. I had planned to return from winter training in Cape Town on Sunday but I will need to stay here for four weeks as I can’t fly yet on doctor’s advice after a lung injury.
“But kitesurfing is a safe sport and I like to stress this. In this case, I feel very unlucky to have taken an unfortunate landing. Remember, we are trying to push the boundaries of the sport at an event like this. Up to the event, I had been riding really well, advancing into the top three in the world of the highest jumps ever recorded.”
Lewis was not the only kitesurfer from Worthing in action in the tournament and he said: “Incredibly, Worthing was represented at this event by three riders. Aaron Hadlow lived in the town for three years and Ollie Sweeney and myself still live there.
“The strong south easterly wind is why the event is run in Cape Town in 30-40mph wind and people think that this is incredibly windy but frequently we receive over 50mph in Worthing.
“My home town is my favourite place to be in the world and it just so happens to provide the perfect ingredients to train for events like this. I am so grateful to live there.”
For now, Lewis has to take it easy but he hopes to be back out on the water kitesurfing again in around four weeks time.
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