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Coma Survivor Attempts to Beat His Record from Catalina to Newport Beach

Matt Thomas is doing it again! The coma survivor and brain injury advocate is attempting to beat his own hydro bike record from Catalina to Newport Harbor.

NEWPORT BEACH— On Sunday, Aug. 20, Matthew Thomas – a coma survivor who was once given a five percent chance of living – will once again pedal his hydro bike from Avalon, Catalina, to the Orange County Sheriffs Harbor Patrol Station in Newport Beach. 


Thomas is attempting to beat his previous record from August 2022, which was an 11-hour ride where he faced persistent high winds and rough waters. This time around, Thomas is aiming for a record of seven hours and a new world record for the estimated 30 miles race. 


“I was thinking 11 hours is kind of a big window for others to beat, that don’t have a disability because I wasn’t really listening but I was pedaling and pedaling,” said Thomas in an email to the Log. “[I] got to shore [in] 6 to 7 hours but I was down at the HB river mouth, so I had several miles to backtrack, so that is why and through God’s grace, it can be done.”


Thomas will depart Avalon between 7-9 a.m. and plans to arrive at the Orange County Sheriffs Harbor Patrol Station at 1901 Bayside Dr. in Newport between 2-5 p.m. Radio legacy Jim “Poorman” Trenton of KOCI’s 101.5 FM’s “The Poorman’s Morning Rush” will be on hand to host the festivities and after-party. Tune into KOCI via radio or the internet on weekdays from 7-11 a.m. for regular updates. 


Thomas began training in mid-April to prepare for his goal of shaving four hours off his record time. Thomas started training daily for an hour and a half and then continued to add time. He is now up to four hours of training an afternoon in the ocean to go up against the water’s current.


“[I] just keep [my] legs going so it can be done,” said Thomas. “Plus, I have been riding now for 30 years. Putting Ability in Disability, PAID.”


In 1991, Thomas was involved in a DUI crash that almost killed him. He was a passenger in a car that drove off a 30-foot bridge on Lake Sherwood, CA. Thrown from the vehicle, Thomas’s head hit the rocks, and he went into a coma. The prognosis was grim; he was given a five percent chance of survival and would remain in a coma thereafter. After three months in a coma, Thomas began a life-long road to recovery. 


“As I slowly came to, I realized I was paralyzed on my left side – couldn’t read, write, talk, shower, shave, eat or dress,” recalls Thomas. 


Today, Matthew is an in-demand public speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations, a consultant, photographer, bodyboarder, and avid golfer. Thomas lives as proof that there are no limits to the human brain. According to Dr. Philip O’Carroll, his longtime neurologist, “He healed himself in a way that far exceeds any conventional medical wisdom.”


However, it’s not the race against the clock that he’s worried about. Thomas’s most significant obstacles are getting the chase boat, his bike, and himself over to the Island.


“It’s a cognitive thing: attention/divided multitasking, another extra thought process to open up new neurons that were injured and to show it can be done, even after 32 years of tripp’in aint EAZY,” said Thomas.


There is a celebration for Thomas on the dock at 1901 Bayside Drive at the Corona del Mar Harbor Patrol from 3-6 p.m., with more celebration to follow at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club after that. 


Matthew Thomas can be found on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also watch Matthew’s “Straight Out of a Coma” Documentary streaming on Tubi TV. 

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