After a life-threatening road accident, Ocean Athlete Fred Bonnef survived 18 fractures and 35 surgeries and spent over 4 years in recovery, reconnecting with his body and re-learning the sports he loved. Now, from his home in Tarifa, Spain, we ask him about his incredible experience and how he hopes to inspire others.
What is it that you love about water sports?
Fred Bonnef: I find my peace when I am out on the sea. I have no brother or sister, so I spent lots of time alone with my parents on the sailing boat. I spent my childhood watching the sea and I felt like the sea was my big brother. When I was around 12 years old I discovered wind surfing, then I said “Okay, that's what I want to do”.
I like to perform in lots of different disciplines, the main one being Stand Up Paddling and Windsurfing - for me, it's more than a sport, it’s a way of living. I think almost nothing when I am hitting the water. That's the good thing about it. It's one of the few moments in life where you can really switch off and reset on all your problems.
What do you remember about the accident?
FB: I was coming back from the World Cup in Stand Up Paddling and I saw some lights in front of me. A pickup truck came in front of me from the wrong side of the highway and it just hit me full speed. I think if I was not in shape at this period, I would have died instantly.
I was in a coma for 15 days, that was the most traumatic thing I've lived in my life. The first question, over the pain, over anything was, “Would I be able to go back on the water?”
I suffered 18 fractures, most of them open and endured 35 surgeries in total. The first part of the recovery was surviving those surgeries. So after I was finally able to walk again, which I think took me around one year, I started to think about going back to my sport. Even the people that really believe in my possibilities, they were like “Okay, he has lots of will, but it's not enough.”
But I was determined. That was the competition of my life and I was going for it.
How has Augustinus Bader helped in your recovery?
FB: I initially tried it for my scars. When you have troubles with your joint, it's not only the articulation in itself, it's also the adherence you have on your skin. I figured out that The Cream was helping me to have a bit more flexibility on my skin.
Augustinus Bader has definitely had a positive impact on my recovery, that's for sure.
By telling your story, what would you like to achieve?
FB: My goal is to keep helping people who are in trouble to think that it's possible. I would have loved to have a good example of somebody that really managed to start from where I was, 18 fractures, and come back to where I am now. I am able to do all the sports. I would have loved to have somebody pushing me and telling me it's possible… So if I can motivate people, it's already a victory for me. It's a way for me to take something really negative and bring it to something positive. It took me 10 years, but I think I'm back to where I am in my happiness.