Accident Report: French Paddler Dislocates Shoulder

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 10:03 | Written by 
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When surfing goes wrong... When surfing goes wrong...

As the avalanche of water broke over him, smashing him off his surfski, Killian Marzin felt an agonizing pain shoot through his shoulder.  He knew he was badly hurt – and the next wave in the set was roaring in towards him…

French Junior Ocean Paddling Champion

17-year-old Marzin is an experienced surfski paddler; as the French Junior Ocean Racing Champion, he’s regarded as one of the future stars of the sport. 

Killian Marzan

French Junior Champion Killian Marzin

Originally from New Caledonia, he lives and paddles in Portsall, Brittany on the north-east coast of France.


Training Paddle

27 September 2018, 18h00: Marzin set off for a familiar 15km training paddle from the Stellac’h Quay in Saint Pabu.  It was a calm, sunny evening; no wind and very little chop.  His father was on the water too, on an OC-1, but they took different routes, expecting to meet up again at the quay at around 19h30.  Marzin was wearing his PFD and was using his leash.  But he forgot his phone (and VHF). 

No matter, it was a warm, calm, beautiful evening.


The weather was mild - zero wind, 20C, flat sea; perfect.

Exiting the Aber Benoit river mouth, Marzin turned left along the coast to avoid the strong incoming tidal currents.  His intended route was to paddle inshore for about 7km, turning at the Carrec Cros rocks to ride the current back into the bay before turning right once more to head back to his starting point.

route with names

Killian Marzin's intended route

25min into the paddle, Marzin was level with the Isle du Bec when he saw something that attracted his attention: the waves were working on a surfing spot to seaward of the Carrec Cros Rocks.

“The surf looked beautiful,” he said.  “I decided to change course and catch some rides.”

Two rides and... disaster

The first two waves weren’t big – about 1.5m – and he caught two rides… 

…but the third one didn’t go so well.  Broaching, he found himself parallel to the breaking wave and as he frantically braced, it collapsed onto him, the leverage on his outstretched arm excruciating…

Surfacing, he found himself in dire straits.  “I was in immense pain,” he said.  “And I was in the middle of the breaking waves with more on the way.

“I had no choice.  Shoulder or no shoulder, I had to get back on the ski. I still don’t know how I did it, probably the adrenalin!”

Somehow, he managed to paddle the dozen meters or so to calmer water.


Recovering his breath, but in absolute agony, Marzin considered his options. 

The île de Rosservo was within 200m but comprises steep sided rocks. Impossible. 

The beach, 1.5km away would have been ideal but for the lines of breaking surf.  Non! 

Marzin headed for the third choice, the Île du Bec, about 800m southeast.  “I couldn’t move my right arm at all,” he said. “My elbow was against my side and it was impossible to move my shoulder.”

Holding the paddle in his right hand and paddling with his left hand, he made his way very slowly and 30min later reached the Île du Bec. 

detail plus track

Marzin picked his way gingerly to the shore, trying not to fall on the slippery seaweed covered rocks.  “I carried my paddle in my right hand and had the surfski on my back until I reached the grass,” he said. 

He set about trying to attract attention.  “I put my PFD on the end of my paddle to make a signal,” he said.  A SUP paddler cruised past and walkers on the beach opposite failed to see his frantic waving. 

“I made signs every ten minutes until nightfall,” he said.  But in vain.

Marzin knew that his father would raise the alarm – and also knew that at low tide it would be possible to wade to the mainland… but low tide was at 2am.


Meanwhile Marzin Senior was becoming increasingly concerned.  The 19h30 rendezvous at the Stellac’h Quay came and went.  By 20h00, he was searching along the coastline, expecting to find that his son had come ashore. 

He alerted the authorities and the search began for the missing paddler with the deployment of the SNSM (Sea Rescue), firefighters and gendarmerie.  They were joined by a helicopter that commenced searching along the coast.

…and Retrieval

Back on the Île du Bec, Marzin was cold and in pain.

“I was getting colder,” he said, “and as the adrenaline went down, I started feeling sleepy.”

dragon 29

Finally, he heard the helicopter in the distance.  “It took another twenty minutes before the pilots found me; they spotted the reflection from the tapes on my PFD,” he said.

Landing on the island, the crew stabilized Marzin before flying him to hospital for treatment.

Marzin’s surfski and paddle spent the night on the island and was retrieved without damage the next day.

Sharing the Experience

To Marzin, the most shocking thing was how quickly a mellow training run in mild conditions had turned into a life-threatening nightmare.

“I was left with a dislocated shoulder and a lot of emotions,” said Marzin.  “I want to share this experience so that others can learn and avoid doing the same thing.”

His suggestions:

  • Always have a means of communication: VHF, phone, flares
  • Avoid paddling alone
  • Make sure someone on shore has your route and timetable.
  • Wear high visibility clothing (fluorescent and reflective)
  • Take water (and perhaps an energy bar)
  • If you do get into trouble, take the time to think your options through without panicking.

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