Nearly ten months after a horrific wipeout at Backdoor came close to taking his life, Dusty Payne has made his return to professional competition. Competing in the QS3,000 HIC Pro at Sunset, the Maui charger wasn’t content with just being back in a jersey, but tore through his early round heats to post an impressive quarter-final finish. Considering the extent of the injuries he suffered and the fact he’s lucky to be alive, let alone back in the water, the comeback is remarkable and a testament to the strength of Payne’s character.

Payne came unstuck on a late drop at Backdoor during a freesurf in January. He was driven headfirst into the reef, fracturing his skull, his eye socket and his jaw in two places, and most disturbingly, tearing an artery in his neck that, if it had have torn anymore, would’ve certainly led to his death. He was pulled from the water by fellow Hawaiians Jimmy ‘Ulu Boy’ Napeahi and Keoki Saguibo, before being taken from the beach in an ambulance. Payne spent a month in hospital following the accident and then most of 2018 recovering.

‘I've basically had to relearn how to use my body the way I did before,’ he told the WSL. ‘That has taken a lot of physical work. A lot of time in the gym, and, more recently, in the ocean.’

Payne made his first publicised appearance back in the water in June, after the WSL offered him the opportunity to visit the Surf Ranch. Since then the star of high-performance films like Modern Collective and Lost Atlas has been working towards a return to his former level, and with a result like the one he’s just achieved, it seems he’s well on his way.

Payne already has an impressive record of overcoming adversity in Hawaii. In 2014, he came from nowhere on the QS rankings to qualify for the 2015 world tour in the last two events of the season, winning Haleiwa and finishing second at Sunset. In 2017, after spending most of the year recovering from back surgery, he won the Pipe Trials and earned himself a spot in the main event. Who knows what the 2018 Vans Triple Crown holds for a man who seems to be at his best when he’s facing a challenge? Could he pull off the impossible and blast his way back onto the tour?

For now we should all be happy just to have one of the world’s most stylish surfers back in the water and ripping.

But far out, wouldn’t it be a comeback story for the ages?