New Zealand wakeboarder Brad Smeele took a brutal fall Sunday while attempting a trick on the Lake Ronix Big Air ramp that put him in the ICU. Brad went big, but didn't come all the way around on his second rotation of a double roll to blind and reportedly crushed his fouth vertebrae and has no feeling from the neck down. As this is written, Brad is undergoing his second surgery, which is expected to last 6-7 hours. Doctors will know much more when the surgery is completed.
Brad has always been one to push the limits of wakeboarding and nobody would argue that he's one of the bravest riders on the water. Brad's countrymate and good friend, Jeff Weatherall, was at his side this morning after flying out from California. Brad's mom is said to be flying in from New Zealand.
"Thank you all so much for your love and support for Brad," reported Weatherall. "It really goes to show how far and wide around the world that crazy Kiwi has had a positive effect!"
The wakeboarding community has quickly rallied around Brad. Even Red Bull has their doctors involved. If you'd like to donate to help out with medical costs, you can do so at BradSmeeleFoundation.com. There will also be a Fundraiser For Brad Smeele at The Other Bar in Orlando on July 15.
You can keep up to date on Brad's progress on Brad's Recovery Facebook page.
Here is a great story about Brad from Ronix...
With a brawny, powerful physique and a soft, humble personality, Brad Smeele made the trek from his homeland of New Zealand to Orlando right when we started Ronix to pursue his dream of being a pro wakeboarder.
Without any sponsors to back him, he never wavered from his commitment to make a name for himself. Calling it a night on people's couches, he changed his address as often as he needed a back up board - with his 215 pound physique he has never been the kindest rider to his products while landing from a double up.
One of the first riders to land a 1080, he built and landed the biggest step up kicker from two waterways in its time, some decent contest results, but he still wasn't able to catapult himself as being regarded as one of the elite riders.
Always on call to help at a moment's notice for his sponsors, even though his sponsors did very little for him in return (including us), but he was never even slightly discouraged of his dream. Seasons went by without that big break, he would go back home each fall with a new hobble or a fresh x-ray on his shoulder. How could somebody take this type of mental and physical strain year after year without having industry supporting him on a bigger level?
Through the winter months of the 2012/2013 off-season, Brad was calling from New Zealand with updates on his rehabilitation - but we'll be honest, we didn't even take his calls. Between the passing of our leader, Herb O'Brien, and the purchase of our new training and R&D center, Lake Ronix, we didn't give Brad his just due time or respect.
In the spring of 2013 he flew back to Orlando with a freshly repaired body, a couple of bucks in his wallet, but, most importantly, the same strong-willed mindset of making his mark. He jumped off the plane, called his mates (mostly other Ronix riders) and asked what they are up to and if he could crash on their couch. Of course, the riders said yes to the place to stay, but through him for a curveball when they replied come meet us at Lake Ronix.
Brad had no idea what that even was and he did something we will never forget. He got directions, drove out there and he instantly had a vision. Telling the other riders he will be back in a bit, he spends most of the money he had on lumber runs. He comes back with his truck filled with 2x4's, a saw and wood screws. Brad starts pounding out picnic tables, benches, fire pits and the first rails the lake had ever seen.
Some of the other riders called our office and told us the story. With our tail behind our legs, we humbly called a rider that we have never paid, barely marketed and, in return, has been one of the most loyal, devoted riders we have ever known. After a intro of run-ons of apologies for not calling him back and appreciations for what he was doing, his reply was, "If there is a fight worth fighting for, I'll fight for it and Ronix has always been worth fighting for."
How do you even reply to that? A level of generosity and devotion you just don't see. It was like something straight out of an action movie where the superhero saves the world and has the perfectly scripted quote to the leading lady.
From that point on there was no dispute who the leader of our training grounds, R&D center and, in many ways, our company had become. We got him a construction site trailer and, with no running water or power, parked on one of the beaches that he built. This is where for the past year Brad has called home.
His vision became infectious and suddenly the whole team was motivated to follow his example converting banks into wall rides and open water into massive kickers and down ramps. This May, Brad completed the most progressive lineup of features our sport has seen, and so began the media blitz.
Whether it has been filming for a big upcoming movie, shooting for our new brochure and website or just putting on a demo for some VIP dealers swinging by, Brad has made it clear that he is more than just the foreman of a lake and its build out. He's innovated more new tricks (yet to be published) than anybody else on our team or, arguably, anybody in our sport.
Now finally cashing some checks, videos and other sponsors taking notice, living on a private 210 acre lake oasis and, most importantly, to him the ultimate level of respect from his peers. All of those nights of tossing and turning that would leave most of us to throw in the towel on being a pro rider were finally paying off.
He knew that some of the features they were hitting were gnarly and needed to be taken with severe precaution and he enrolled himself and Chad Sharpe in a CPR seminar, made sure that when filming certain lines that there were riders in all of the right areas and a SUP board close by in case somebody needed a floating stretcher.
On Sunday, July 6th while putting his finishing touches on his soon to be released historic video section, Brad had a very traumatic injury. Because our leader demanded we have a SUP board on sight, wore a Coast Guard Approved Jacket and have other riders CPR certified, Chad Sharpe and Dean Smith were able to safely get him onto the board and remove any water from his lungs.
Now he is in the doctors' and God's hands. We don't know every detail and we would rather have his family publish any updates when it's time, but what we do know is this...
"If there is a fight worth fighting for, we'll fight for it, and Brad Smeele you are worth fighting for!"
He needs our prayers and his family could use your support. To make a donation to the recovery one of the best people, leaders, riders we have ever worked with, go to www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/bradsmeele.