Ex-soldier’s amazing win
A WAR veteran has described how his love of surfing helped him overcome horrific injuries sustained during a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Yianni Karakousis, who now lives on Anglesey, says that taking up the sport once again has helped him overcome trauma, mental ill-health and his serious physical injuries.
Serving as a Captain with the Royal Engineers, the now 30-yearold father-of-one suffered horrific injuries in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, in April, 2013.
The pressure of the explosion had forced Yianni’s lungs almost to the point of bursting, fracturing most of the bones in his face and causing traumatic brain and spinal injuries.
Yianni said that his first thought following the blast was that, if the explosion didn’t kill him, his wife probably would.
The keen surfer’s second thought was that he would probably never ride a board again.
Initially recovering at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, he’s since been supported by military charity Help for Heroes, who encouraged him to use his love of the sport.
Despite his injuries, that hasn’t stopped him competing, taking part and winning the Open Category at the world-first Adaptive Surf Championship in the Conwy Valley recently.
He was one of 16 surfers, all either serving military or veterans who have battled physical or mental injury, who competed for the top spots in the event at Surf Snowdonia.
Yianni said: “For me, surfing is a mindset.
“That determination to get out when there’s a big set coming, that determination to push yourself to improve - it’s that same mindset you need to drive yourself forward in your recovery.
“It’s been a long road for me to get where I am now, and not easy by any means, but surfing has been a central part of it.
“I really enjoyed the Surf Snowdonia championship, and being around people of a similar background to me was a big part of that enjoyment.”
Growing up miles from the sea, but always fancying picking up surfing, it was after befriending some surfing students while at Harper Adams University, in Shropshire, that he joined them on a trip to Hell’s Mouth, near Abersoch, and found he -enjoyed it.
“But those trips were few and far between as, being students, we couldn’t afford to go very often,” Yianni recalled.
During his time in the Army, he had no time to revisit the sport, only doing so when he was discharged, initially moving to Aberdeen.
His love of surfing and therefore desire to live near the sea, is one of the main reasons that he and his wife (who is from Gwynedd) settled on Anglesey.
Andy Ainscough, managing director of Surf Snowdonia, said the Adaptive Surf Championship was a celebration of the veterans’ courage and resilience.
“We’ve worked closely with Help for Heroes since we launched in 2015 and regularly sponsor visits from former servicemen and women who use surf therapy to recover from mental and physical injuries,” he said.
“Seeing the transformative effect that surfing has had on these guys has been really powerful.
“We wanted to showcase and celebrate that with a community event, and it was great to have such a good crowd turn out to cheer the guys on.”
Around 1,500 spectators attended the free event, which is likely to become an annual fixture.
Below, Welsh Guards cheer on the action and all 16 of the surf competitors with organisers Yianni Karakousis (centre) suffered horrendous injuries while serving as a Captain in the Army - he is pictured here receiving his Open Category award at the first world adaptive surf championships, at Surf Snowdonia, Dolgarrog