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An Inspiring Journey Back To Health - Raglan Artist Sam Mathers

An Inspiring Journey Back To Health - Raglan Artist Sam Mathers

Please give us a rundown on who you are and what you do? 

My Name is Sam Mathers, I have been a full time Artist (painter) for the past 10 years.

I'm a father to two young crazy-fun boys Ryder and Van, and partner to Laura. I was born and raised in Raglan, NZ. I've spent most of my life in and around the ocean from fishing to diving and surfing. Surfing is something I do weekly (daily if I can), and I will continue so for as long as my body will let me. 

You had a tough 2021 experiencing a life changing car accident. Can you share a little about this and how it has impacted on your life? 

I was passenger in a high speed car crash. My injuries were pretty severe; fractured 9 vertebra in my spine; broke 7 ribs; hemothorax on my left lung; fractured scapular; dislocated left side of my jaw bone; and a concussion.

I shouldn’t have survived the crash. I defied all odds and somehow escaped death. 

I had no seat belt on in the backseat of a car moving well over 100km slamming into a house. Someone was watching over me 100%. I still have a lot of life left to live.

As you can imagine having all of these injuries at once, the pain level was through the roof. The next four straight months were pure hell. I wasn't able to sleep, I couldn't go to the toilet for weeks because of the medication, even getting in and out of bed was a big task.

There were a few times I felt like giving up and couldn’t go on any more and I would just lose it. I couldn’t even carry my 1 year old boy for 8 months. I couldn’t do anything I used to do.

It's not just physical injuries, but you start to get super low and down. Your mental health takes a major hit. From here on I was on an uphill battle, physically and mentally to get back to being fit and healthy.

I was lucky to have an understanding family who had been through something similar with my brother, so they knew how to help me through it. 

Can you let us know how you stayed physically and mentally strong throughout your recovery and beyond? 

Once my bones had rejoined and the bruising had come down enough, which took around 8 or 9 weeks after the accident, I started seeing my physio and osteo. They would massage out all of the inflammation and try to realign my twisted body. I was also given stretching and strengthening exercises after three or four months when my body was ready.

I found the pain in my back was not going away and I was willing to try anything. It was the middle of winter (2°C outside), when I purchased an old chest freezer and filled it with water. 

I would wake up at 3am every morning from the pain and go sit in my ice bath for three minutes.

After hopping out of the ice bath my back pain would completely go away. I could then go half the day with zero back pain. I continued to repeat this every morning until I was able to wean myself off all pain relief medication. It took me only 4-5 months to get to this stage, which was super early with my condition.

I then got in contact with Laura Warren who is a Wim Hoff instructor. I did a workshop with her which really opened up so many great things for me. She taught me breath-work, which really helped me to break free from my depressed state of mind.

I was able to stop taking sleeping medication, as I found that practising Wim Hoff breath-work before bed was better than any medication I was taking. 

I still use my ice-bath everyday, it has become something I can’t live without now. During my first plunge I thought I was going to have a heart attack, now I feel so comfortable in 0°C that I can almost fall asleep. It’s a place where you can completely switch off from the world and zen out.

Sadly, if I miss a day I can really feel it in my back; the pain and stiffness comes back.

What role does routine play in your life and throughout your recovery? 

Routine has become my life now. I wake up and do the same things everyday in order to stop my body from going backwards. When I miss a few days, eat bad food or drink beers I pay a much bigger price than I used to.

I don’t have a normal hangover, my whole body aches from the inflammation that alcohol has on you. I have learnt a lot more about living a healthy lifestyle which is hard to keep up, but now it’s something I have to do.

You do some epic art, how was your work impacted and how did you cope with this? 

 Thanks! I couldn’t paint for 7 months as I couldn’t stand or sit for a long periods of time. I couldn’t lift my boards or sand back layers of paint.

My painting technique is very labour intensive where I paint large heavy boards and flip them up and down approximately 100 times before the painting is finished (I do this to change the direction of paint drips). I also use a sander to sand back layers to give it a rough organic look.

The first week I was in hospital I actually sold one large painting and a few prints which was so lucky as that’s the money I used to keep the family afloat as ACC took a good 5 weeks to start coming in.

What is your biggest motivation to get back to 100%? 

Pain: It was so bad that I was willing to do anything to make it go away. I could not live a life like that. 

Family: Not being able to carry your kids when they need a hug was alarming for me.

Surfing: I love to surf and do so every day. For that to be taken away from me was a major reason to get back to 100%.

    I am not stopping now and am on my way to be the healthiest, fittest and strongest I have ever been. 

    What advice would you give any readers who are also recovering from an injury?

    Look outside of the box & experiment with natural ways of healing. Medication is good for a short time, but only a temporary fix. Find something that works for you naturally. When you find something, you can carry that on for the rest of your life, which is only going to make you healthier in the long run. 

    What’s your favourite way to have any of our Mitchells Nutrition products? 

    Everyday I enjoy my hot cup of Bone Broth straight after my morning ice bath - it’s my favourite. I also add Collagen into my morning coffee.

    Finally, what’s your fav adventure spot in New Zealand?

    I would have to say Raglan Bar or The Ledge. Basically any surf break that has a barrel or two on offer.

    We wish you all the best on your recovery Sam, keep up the amazing work. 

    Keep up to date with Sam on IG @sammathers


    Hero image credit - Rambo Estrada


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