Tearing the labrum in my left shoulder has been the worst and greatest things to ever happen to me.

As weird as that sounds, let me explain.

Before going in for shoulder surgery, I had never really had any major career injuries. In fact, it isn’t common in wakeboarding to suffer upper body problems.

But when it all happened, I was flat-out in denial.

It was May last year and I was in the United States at the time. I remember being sent for scans by our competition doctors and once the results were in that was when I first received the news.

I didn’t know anything about shoulders then, because up until that point I had never had an injury like that.

As I touched on, most of the time wakeboarders mostly suffer lower-leg injuries – I think last year, there were maybe 5-6 professionals with knee injuries. They’re simply a lot more common.

So for me I didn’t really know a whole lot about shoulders and I didn’t really go out of my way to look up what was happening, I was just taking it day by day.

I was beginning to see sort of little improvements here and there and didn’t really go out of my way to figure out what was really going on.

I was told by competition doctors that I had to take 3-4 months off and that was the last thing on my mind. It would mean I’d have to pull out for the remainder of the season and that wasn’t going to happen under any circumstance.

I told myself I’d simply ride on, push through and listen to my body if the pain became unbearable.

After being told I shouldn’t be in the water for four months, I chose to compete two weeks later.

From that moment when I competed and won the next event I thought, ‘Well, let’s just keep going. What’s the worst that could happen?’.

I thought, I can still compete and ride the season out. For me, it was just about taking it one day at a time.

If it was bad one day I wouldn’t push it – actually in hindsight it taught me a lot about how to prepare for events properly.

Because beforehand I’d just be beating myself and just training like super hard when I didn’t need to, so I’d just be burning out every year.

Everyone says it, but no one truly processes it – ‘train smarter, not harder’, and until that point I was just going at it too hard and it just caught up to me I guess.

In the end, I made the call to book myself in to go under the knife.

Due to my decision to perform through the pain, I suffered additional damage to the labrum.

Looking back, I initially regretted the surgery.

Obviously I was in just a lot of pain and as I lay in the hospital bed following surgery, it hit me that I’d never really been in that situation before.

It was something that I’d never gone through and didn’t really know what to expect. I was doubtful, I didn’t know if I’d made the right decision, I didn’t know if surgery was the right call. It was quite overwhelming.

I was obviously prepared for the physical recovery, but what I didn’t expect to suffer from was the emotional and mental toll of it all.

That was the hardest part to get over. It really hit me like a bus in the days following surgery.

I had no idea the how hard the surgery would hit me mentally. Four days later, it was my 21st birthday and I spent all day in bed because I didn’t want to be around anyone.

I was super regretful about the whole situation, thinking I shouldn’t have done this surgery. Thoughts entering my head like, I’m never going to recover from this or get back to my best in the water.

It wasn’t until I started feeling improvements in my shoulder that I was like ‘Alright, things are starting to get better, they’re looking up’ and then I finally had that glimpse of hope.

Then I was able to have some normality back in my life. It was almost like a competitive mindset where I could just be like ‘alright what’s the next step’, ‘’what have I got to do’, ‘what needs to be done’, and then I just started going from there and just started to tick the boxes.

Sort of pushing what I could do but without overdoing it.

I knew that I had exactly five months from the surgery date before the Moomba Masters in Melbourne but I knew I could have gotten back on the water at four months, if required.

When I finally was able to be cleared to get back into the water, I thought it would be a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It sucked. I was so out of touch on the board, the first two weeks were an absolute struggle. My mind was sharp, but my body was so far off the pace.

The last time I rode I did whatever I wanted, I was riding the way I wanted to ride and when I hit the water for the first time after surgery I was so restricted, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. Everything felt weird and I started getting bummed out and sort of thinking ‘What the heck is going on?’

To do all this work until this point and then I couldn’t ride, yeah I was like this really sucks haha.

So that was kind of hard but I guess I was just riding every single day at that point and I knew it would come back, it was just going to take time.

No one was more surprised than me, when I not only registered for the Moomba Masters in time, but won the whole event in my first competitive event since surgery.

As I celebrated in the days following the Masters, I realised that as hard as it was to overcome surgery, I’d never been happier as a person than I am right now.

Last year I was happy with where I was physically and competitively, but coming into this year I’m way happier personally and that’s made such a big difference.

I mostly enjoy being on the water now, where I never used to. A couple of years ago, I only trained and worked out when I had to.  I only did it because I knew the obvious benefits of training in my downtime, but I never really wanted to do it.

I lacked the motivation and felt like I was just getting burnt out all the time. At times, I realised how bad I was actually feeling.

Whereas now, I’m enjoying being in the gym, being on the water and competing to be the best version of myself.

All in all as an athlete I really appreciate how much of a great learning experience this injury was for me, and can now finally see all the positives of how it has benefitted me.