Wave broke man's neck,
'miracles' put him back
on his feet

August 11, 2008

Leanne, left, and husband Fred Miller show the X-rays taken after his neck surgery in Modesto, California. Fred nearly lost his life, breaking his neck in a boogie boarding accident a year ago during a Pismo Beach vacation with his family.

MODESTO, Calif. - The fog had burned off, the sand at Pismo Beach, Calif., was beginning to sizzle and Modesto Realtor Fred Miller finally was hot enough to join his teenage daughters in the surf.

It was July 25, 2007, the second day in the family's annual weeklong pilgrimage to Pismo, a trip they had been taking for nearly 20 years. Miller's wife, Leanne, stayed on the beach while Miller and his brother-in-law, Phil Morino of Modesto, Calif., took their boogie boards into the ocean. Two of the Millers' daughters, Natalie and Jacqueline, then 17 and 19, had been surfing for a few hours.

"The waves looked interesting in that they were larger and thicker than normal," said Miller, who lived near the ocean for about half of his 61 years. "We had heard it was because of a storm down south.

"I went out about 80 yards. It gets deep very graduahttp://www.gmtoday.com/news/health/topstory06.asplly, and I was in water about shoulder deep. I caught my first wave and had a great ride for about 60 yards. I went back out. I realized I was farther out than the surfers and other boogie boards, bobbing up and down in my black wet suit. I began thinking, if any great whites (sharks) come in here, which they do, I'm going to be the first thing they see.

"So I had just moved in closer to shore about 20 yards, but was still one of the farthest out. I see a big wave I'd been waiting for. It looked big and strong and almost caught up with the wave in front of it. I made a point to catch it, and I thought everyone else would, too.