Keala Kennelly Beats Surfing Injury, Rides Waves To Billabong Win

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 10:15 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Keala Kennelly, the Hawaii-born professional surfer who suffered a severe injury to her head and face in 2011, won the Women’s Best Overall Performance at the Billabong XXL Awards on Friday. It is the second year in a row she won.

"Last year I won this award, cashed the check and three days later I was in Teahupoo for a big swell," Kennelly told the Orange County Register. "It was the first time I’d been back since my face injury there. To come back and overcome my fear and get the best wave was a huge personal triumph for me."

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The 35-year-old Kennelly suffered a severe injury to her face while competing in Teahupoo, Tahiti, in 2011. A powerful wave threw her from her surf board while she was in shallow water into a coral reef. Kennelly was rushed to the hospital where she reportedly received 40 stitches, 30 in the front and 10 in the skull, reported.

Kennelly said she depended on powerful pain medications to ease the pain for months after, noted. She compared the accident to a car accident.

Kennelly reportedly posted the photo above to her Facebook page and wrote, "They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry if you were eating dinner. I look much better now I promise."

Top honors for 2014 Ride of the Year at the Billabong XXL Awards was taken by California-born surfer Greg Long.

"The fear is an underlying motivator, and turning the fear into something positive is what big-wave surfing does for me," Long told the Orange County Register after his win. "When you’re riding a big wave, you’re so focused, and it’s like time goes into slow motion."

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