But Mark Patterson was back at work within two months of his ordeal – and back on his board not long after.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after his "year of extremes", the popular Northern Ireland radio presenter recalls how one bad move could have cost him his life.
A long-time, well-travelled wave chaser, Patterson was surfing in the Basque Country after making a Radio 4 documentary on the story when he dove off the crest of a wave into what he thought was deep water - but instead hit the sea floor just a foot below the surface "like a javelin".
It brings to mind the accident that paralysed Trinity student Jack Kavanagh on a surfing holiday in Portugal in 2012, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.
Despite going numb through much of his body, amazingly Patterson was able to crawl back onto the beach and even pick up his surfboard.
His condition was serious: a fracture to his C6 vertebra that meant a full neck cast and months of rehab at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital.
But in a matter of months, Patterson went from that low to a lifetime high when he beat NI broadcasting kingpin Stephen Nolan to the 2015 Speech Broadcaster of the Year prize in the annual NI Awards.
The Belfast Telegraph has much more on the story HERE.
In other news from the waves, female surfing pioneer Easkey Britton tells the Irish Independent about what drives her love of the surf – and about the sporting women who inspire her.