I first came in contact with Harley Rose Taich last year, reading an interview with her on Jetty Girl Magazine. Growing up in La Jolla in Southern California she learned how to surf at an early age reaching toward the professional status and surfed on the USA team when fate struck midway through 2011. At the age of 16 she sustained a traumatic brain injury at a surfing competition. The road to recovery has been a long journey with ups and downs, but I´ve been overwhelmed about her positive charisma and the never ending inspiration she radiates. Recently I once again came in contact with Harley when she send me a link about her new children book, "Head´s Up!", and I just had to have a chat with this amazing girl.
HOW HAS IT BEEN TO GROW UP IN LA JOLLA, WHAT MAKES IT SUCH A SPECIAL PLACE?
La Jolla is such a beautiful town and I have been so lucky to have grown up so close to the beach. La Jolla is definitely a tight knit surf community where everybody knows each other. I love how we have access to so many healthy food cafes and restaurants as well.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS.
Loving, honest, compassionate.
WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE SO MUCH ABOUT SURFING?
There is something so magical about gliding across a wave on a surfboard. Everytime I come in from surfing I feel happier, and stoked on life. It has always been my escape, if things aren't going the way I want all I have to do is go for a surf and nothing nothing else seems to matter.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2011 YOUR LIFE CHANGED IN AN INSTANT. WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY IN PT. MAGU?
August 20th 2011, my life changed in a different path than I could have ever imagined. I can only remember bits and pieces of the day that changed my life drastically. I remember how cold the water was and how fun the waves were. The sand at Point Mugu is very compact and hard unlike the sand at most beaches. I had made the final and was in a heat with three other girls. I remember taking off on a wave and then pulling into the barrel and ending it with a snap. What I don’t remember is what happened after that. I was told I went headfirst into the sand as the wave bottomed out. There was no water, just sand. I do remember coming in and coughing up so much sand that it was coming out of my lungs and nostrils, and it was quite painful. There was only five minutes left in the heat and I was winning by a wide margin and decided to go in before it was over because I didn’t feel well. I was walking up the beach and started feeling like I was going to pass out. A paramedic happened to see my eyes roll backward and helped carry me up the rocks and laid me down. It happened on a naval base so there were a lot of officers, paramedics, and lifeguards. I remember having fifty people hovering over me and I felt super claustrophobic. They wanted to take me to the emergency room after people had told them I hit my head. I was very combative and was screaming at them telling them I wanted to go up and get my trophy because I had just won the event. They told me I couldn’t which made me angry. I tried to stand up anyway but was so dizzy I had to lie back down. They ended up strapping me to a gurney in an ambulance and said they were going to handcuff me if I didn’t cooperate. I was told I kept repeating myself and was crying and screaming hysterically but I don’t remember that part. All I remember is that I didn’t feel normal and I didn’t know what was wrong. All I knew is I wanted to go home and be in the comfort of my own house. The impact I had when I projected headfirst into the sand was so hard that it tore the inside of my brain and left me with a Grade 3 concussion...
HOW DID YOU SPEND YOUR DAYS AND MONTHS FOLLOWING THE ACCIDENT?
I spent my days bedridden forced to stare at the four walls that surrounded me for many many months. I missed my junior and part of senior year of high school. I mostly listened to music and colored, as that was all I could do at the time. I wasn't allowed to be on technology as this would only prolong my recovery time and be over stimulating on my brain. I had never been so bored out of my mind! Everyday I just felt like a prisoner in my own room, but there wasn't much more I could do as I was sick with migraines, nausea, and dizziness, day by day..
THROUGH YOUR INJURY AND PAIN YOU COULD FIND THE POWER TO TELL YOUR STORY IN THE FORM OF A CHILDREN BOOK. HOW DID YOU CAME UP WITH THE IDEA?
With all the months I spent in bed with nothing to do, this inspired me to write my book, “Heads Up!”. Given my experience this gave me the topic for my book. I have always loved kids, and read books to the children I babysit for, so this gave me the idea to write a children’s book on my accident in a simple story easy enough for children 4 and up to understand.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE BOOK AND HOW IT CAN HELP OTHER KIDS IN THE SAME SITUATION.
My book is about two brothers Finn and Reef, two surfing eggshells. They are brothers and surf together everyday. Finn ends up going head first into the sand and injures his eggshell ( his brain). Throughout the book is Finn's journey through injury, recovery and learning to keep a positive outlook along the way. It carries a positive message of loving your body and thinking positively. It shows kids that sometimes things take time and allowing your body to rest can be important for the brain and body to heal. Whether a child is battling cancer, a concussion or any debilitating illness they have the power to think positively and have hope!
IF WE´RE LOOKING FORWARD, HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY AND HOW´S ABOUT YOUR SURFING CAREER? OR DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER PLANS, A NEW BOOK MAYBE?
Looking forward I hope to have my book in as many hospitals worldwide and in the hands of children and parents all over the world. I just want to spread awareness on concussions and TBI ( traumatic brain injuries), and teach kids the importance of protecting their brains and loving their bodies. Wearing a helmet is crucial in contact sports and avoiding impact to the brain is so important in the development of children and teens physically and mentally. For my surfing career I just want to be in the ocean and surfing. I would love to do contests in the future but we will see!! hmmm… maybe Heads Up could be a movie someday
WHAT GIVES YOU THE BIGGEST SMILE?
Seeing love, giving love, and seeing people happy.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING YOUR TIME, HARLEY. YOU´RE TRULY AN INSPIRATION TO ME AND MANY OTHERS. ANYTHING MORE YOU´D LIKE TO SAY TO OUR BEACHCUTIES READERS?
Thank you for interviewing me and helping to share my story!
Just always remember when you´re having a bad day that your bad day is someone's good day! We are so lucky to be alive and as hard as things maybe at times, just remember to take a deep breath, close your eyes and then be grateful to be alive. Also if anyone needs someone to talk to that's suffering or knows someone suffering from a concussion that they can always reach out to me!