Raffle for recovery

Friends of bodysurfer wounded at Wedge are organizing fundraiser to help cover expenses for physical therapy. Doctors believe that he might not regain ability to walk.

September 04, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Bodysurfer Robert Khoury is known as “the guy who goes right” to members of the so-called New Crew, a group of bold, young swimmers who head to the famed Newport Beach body surfing spot the Wedge each day during the summer.

At the Wedge, the jagged rocks of Newport’s West Jetty are to the right for body surfers who brave the waters there.

A 21-year-old Newport Harbor High School graduate and aspiring professional tennis player, Khoury sustained a serious spinal cord injury while body surfing at the Wedge last week.


Doctors at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian performed an emergency surgery on his spine the day after the accident, but he could lose the use his legs.

Now a group of Khoury’s body surfing friends have joined together to raise money for physical therapy that could help him regain the ability to walk.

In a matter of 48 hours, friends have organized a benefit event in Khoury’s honor, slated for 5 p.m. Sunday at Generic Youth, 1609 Pomona Ave., in Costa Mesa. There will be a silent auction and raffle with items ranging from a weeklong vacation in Las Vegas to free rounds of golf and designer watches. The band Make Moon also will perform.

“Robert’s friends have been amazing,” said Khoury’s sister, Diana Khoury. “I haven’t been able to even think about doing anything like this since the accident. It’s nice that he has these great friends.”

On the day of the accident, Robert Khoury had taken on a fairly innocuous-looking 6- to 8-foot wave at the Wedge, witnesses told his friend, Lee Hernandez, who was at the Wedge that day but left just a few minutes earlier. The next time anyone looked over, Khoury was floating face down in the water.

Two off-duty Huntington Beach lifeguards, one Newport Beach lifeguard and Khoury’s friends managed to pull him out of the water. He has been hospitalized since the accident.

His friends hope to raise $25,000 to help Khoury get rehabilitation treatment that his health insurance won’t cover, but could be the key to getting him back on his feet.

“Robert is such a good body surfer, what we would call ‘a rider,’” Hernandez said. “He’s just a specimen of a person, a great guy, an aspiring pro tennis player, just the most athletic guy you’ve ever seen.”

Body surfer Tim Burnham has known Khoury from hanging out at the Wedge for the past eight years.

Burnham was also at the Wedge the day a 50-year-old Lawndale resident died there in July.

Unusually high waves that day as high was 20 feet pinned the man up against the rocks. The coroner later determined he had drowned.

“With Robert, we really want to get him back on his feet and get him back to normal again, because we weren’t able to help someone else who passed away [at the Wedge],” Burnham said.

“Now we have a second chance at saving someone else.”

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