After Being Stabbed, He's Back in Surf


HUNTINGTON BEACH — The purple scar begins just below surfer Matt Branson's left elbow and weaves down his forearm.

Another larger scar traces down his abdomen and a smaller one cuts across his chest. There also are a few nicks on his right thumb and neck.

The scars are fresh, as are Branson's memories of a stabbing that happened less than two months ago in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney police are still looking for the man who stabbed Branson five times during a scuffle in a nightclub bathroom.

Branson, of Perth, spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from injuries. He began surfing again in early July.

He returned to competition Wednesday at the Op Pro surfing championships. He advanced through the third round before losing to San Clemente's Mike Parsons, 70.5 to 42, in the main event first round.

"I'm just stoked to be alive," said Branson, who finished 27th on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals tour last season. "Nothing else matters."

Seven weeks ago, Branson's future in surfing looked bleak after the knifing.

After the Coke Classic in Sydney, Branson, 22, and some friends went drinking in King's Cross, a strand of bars in Sydney.

Branson said the trouble started when a group of men at the bar were talking to his friend's girlfriend and "my friend told them to kiss off."

Later in the night, the men followed Branson into the bathroom. One pulled a knife.

"I think it was a case of mistaken identity," Branson said. "I look a lot like my friend, and they followed me in there."

Branson remembers little about the attack, except that he crawled out of the bathroom looking for help.

"My friends freaked out and took me out of the bar," he said. "Then I passed out."

His friends took him to a nearby hospital. The cuts were too severe for stitches. Instead, doctors used staples.

"I had 100 external staples and 200 internal," Branson said. "I had these silver things all over me."

Fortunately for Branson, there were no major internal injuries. The knife just missed his intestines, and he said the small cuts on his neck were intended for his jugular vein.

"When I woke up in the hospital," Branson said, "the first thing I asked my friend was if my tattoos are OK."

The cuts narrowly missed the large tattoos on Branson's forearms and shoulders.

"That was a relief," he said.

Branson said police have a few suspects. But because he's traveling with the world tour, he hasn't been back to Sydney to identify any of them.

"I'm just glad I didn't get hurt internally," Branson said. "I think it's a miracle that I made it out OK."

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