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Joe Surf: His thoughts on going cold

December 21, 2011|By Joe Haakenson

What's a surfer like you doing in a place like this?

That was my first thought when I saw Huntington Beach's own Timmy Turner at a neighborhood Christmas party the other day. Turner had his five-month old daughter, Tynzlee, strapped to his chest in one of those child harnesses as he socialized at the party, hosted by Paul and Carolyn Fetters, owners of The Training Spot on Main Street.

It's the only holiday party I've ever been to that every year has an appearance by a Santa Claus who stands about 6-foot-6. But seeing Turner there was just as strange a sight, considering most might only recognize him in pictures riding barrels in Indonesia.

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He is widely known for his battle with a staph infection in his brain that nearly took his life six years ago and resulted in numerous surgeries, including the removal of three-quarters of his skull.

It is believed that he contracted the infection while surfing in water with high levels of bacteria, too soon after heavy rains washed human and industrial waste into the ocean.

He has a new "skull" now, one made of polymethyl methacrylate, which was connected by titanium plates and screws to what was left of his existing skull.

But at the party he was just Timmy, rushing to the bathroom to wash his daughter's hands and face after a nearby partygoer sneezed.

He admitted that he's kind of found the cruise control switch in life, instead of just flooring it. But for Turner, cruise control doesn't mean slow.

Turner, 31, has gained international notoriety for the films he's made, particularly "Second Thoughts," which chronicles the adventures he and two friends had camping out and surfing for a month on an uninhabited island in Indonesia.

Second Thoughts was the 2004 winner of Surfer Magazine's Surfer Poll Best Movie award. Another widely acclaimed film made by Turner is "The Tsunami Diaries: A Voyage to the Epicenter," a documentary from 2006 on the relief efforts he and his friends made after the devastating Indonesian tsunami in 2004.

Now, Turner is working on another film, the idea coming directly from his brush with death and the resulting effects.

Turner returned to the waves after extensive rehabilitation, even though some might have thought it was too soon. But there was one edict that doctors made, and one that Turner's wife Jessica reinforced: no warm-water surfing. Chances of another infection were more likely in warm water, so if Turner wanted to surf, he had to go cold.

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