Less than two weeks after breaking her neck in a freak bodyboarding accident, Lilly Pollard is back at the beach.
Ms Pollard, 32, smashed into a sand bank following a wipeout at Mystics Beach in Killalea State Park on March 25. Airlifted to hospital, scans confirmed a broken neck and six fractured vertebrae in her back.
"I pulled inside a barrel like any other, nothing unusual, but it flipped me straight into the sand," Ms Pollard said from her Werri Beach home on Friday.
"I knew straight away something was wrong. There was this terrible pain in my head and neck."
Not knowing the extent of her injury, she floated on her back and called for help from fellow surfers. Ms Pollard is a champion bodyboarder, winning Hawaii's Pipeline in February and placing third on the women's bodyboarding world tour in 2013 before being forced to withdraw, but even such experience did not prepare her for a freak wave.
"I've been thrown around before. I have good bearing, I can wipe out and know how to turn my body to hit the sand the right way, but it was so fast," she said.
Scans revealed fractures, and a 30 per cent compression of her T5 and T6 vertebrae but despite her injuries, Ms Pollard was able to leave hospital after four days.
She is now resting up at home - "spending a lot of time on the couch and in bed," she said - but often walked to the beach.
"The doctors are happy with how the injury is looking. There is a bit of trauma, but nothing that requires surgery," she said.
"The fractures are stable. They aren't affecting my spine, so I can walk across to the beach and back. I get some headaches but I'm OK. It's amazing."
A long road to recovery lies ahead but Ms Pollard was optimistic. She hoped to rejoin the bodyboard world tour later this year and said she would use that as motivation to get through rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
"It's not totally out of mind but I want to make sure I'm healthy before I do it," she said.
"It's half there in my mind. I'm keeping an eye on it, for something to focus on."
A fund-raiser for Ms Pollard has been organised at Gerringong Surf Life Saving Club on April 12 at 7pm with live music, raffles and auctions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.