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Santa Cruz Surfer Fights For Survival After Horrific Crash Into Cliff

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) -- A Santa Cruz surfer is fighting to survive after a frightening accident into a cliff left him with multiple injuries including a broken neck.

The incident was caught on webcam at Steamer Lane, a popular surf spot in Santa Cruz.

A surf camera caught the moment that changed 53-year-old Brian Hart's life in an instant this past weekend, On Saturday, he tried to catch a wave, but when he pulled back to make way for another surfer, the wave crashed and forced him into the cliff.

Hart's teenage son Santiago is a professional surfer. According to reports, his son helped resuscitate Hart by administering CPR.

"I mean, it makes you think twice, definitely," said Brian Gnerre, a fellow surfer.

Gnerre, who surfs Steamer Lane regularly, said that it's probably the best surf break in the state. But it is also the most dangerous.

"And that's the decision guys have to make sometimes. It's like, 'Well, this looks like a good wave, but am I going to be able to clear the cliff in order to ride it?' A surfer has to make that decision within seconds," explained Gnerre.

On a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for his medical treatment and recovery, a friend wrote that Hart broke his neck, collarbone, ankle and several ribs. He also has a spinal injury that has kept him on a breathing tube. Hart's wife posted on her Facebook page that her husband has a long road to recovery.

Shantinam Kaur saw the surfers who gathered around Hart right after the accident, including those who'd brought him back to shore as first respondents rushed to the scene.

"It was amazing how everyone just stopped and, you know, pitched in to help," Kaur said.

"Absolutely, yeah. That's one of the tenets of a good surfer: looking out for each other," agreed Gnerre.

Hart's friend wrote that he had no feeling below his neck, but was slowly regaining feeling and movement. On the GoFundMe page, is wife posted, "He's in great physical health, and I'm convinced his body will really work hard to recover."

Gnerre said Hart's accident made him think about the hazards of surfing at Steamer Lane.

"Like a week ago, I caught a wave and I could probably almost touch the rock as I was passing it" said Gnerre. "And I was like, 'This is, for the fun that I'm having, not worth the risk.' And for it to actually happen to someone, someone talented, definitely makes me think twice."

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