Ex-swimming champ left paralysed after daredevil jump

A former Waikato swimming champ has been left paralysed after a daredevil jump from a waterfall went horrifically wrong.

Newlyweds Ephraim Gudgeon and his wife Arian were enjoying a road trip on Waitangi weekend, stopping at Omanawa Falls near Tauranga for a swim.

Ephraim decided to jump off the waterfall, a 35-metre plunge.

"As soon as I was in the water I couldn't feel my legs at all, my back was real sore, it felt like my back had been bent, it was hard to breathe," he says.

The Omanawa Falls Park was closed last year due to safety concerns, but continues to be a drawcard for visitors. Like countless others Mr Gudgeon ignored the signs, walking around barricades to swim in the idyllic falls made popular on YouTube.

"I knew it was dangerous, yeah. I don't know - you think you're all-that and the man, something as simple as that can change your whole life."

Ephraim Gudgeon
Ephraim Gudgeon nowadays. Photo credit: The Hui

Mr Gudgeon fractured his spine and is now paralysed from the waist down. He spent 10 weeks in the Otara spinal unit regaining his strength and adjusting to life in a wheelchair.

"The main thing is I can't move or walk, I have no feeling or movement from my waist down. I have no control over my bowel or bladder or feel when it's going to happen, it can be a bit hoha at times."

Ms Gudgeon is now her husband's full-time carer, but they both believe Mr Gudgeon will get back on his feet one day. The couple are now fundraising to access stem cell treatment in Thailand.

While Mr Gudgeon doesn't regret jumping, he wants his story to be a warning to other thrill-seekers.

The Hui