I am a 41 year old retired, disabled US Army Veteran and was injured while serving overseas as a Cannon Crewman on a M109 Howitzer unit. I was hurt in an accident that cost me my left leg below the knee as well as shattering my left femur bone in four places and cracking both of my hips plates.
I discovered paddling, or it actually discovered me, at a disabled sports festival in Long Beach Calif. I was fortunate enough to meet Jan Whitaker (Team USA Coach) of Cape Ability Outrigger Ohana as my instructor for this event. Jan instilled in me a passion for outrigger canoeing as a viable sport for amputees such as myself. She began taking me on exhibition trips to spread the word of adaptive canoeing to other challenged athletes and to seek entrance into the Paralympics.
I have since branched out on my own to join an able bodied team named “Imua” to continue to challenge myself as an athlete. I have been fortunate enough to win various medals on a 6 man crew during our season. I have also traveled to World Sprints and medaled there also as part of a 6 man crew and solo on a V-1.
Paddling has returned much of the self confidence that I lost when I lost my leg. I was convinced that I would never be able to compete at a high level of competition. I also now hand cycle, rock climb and participate in triathlons, all stemming from my achievements in outrigger canoeing.
I know for a fact that a new amputee or wounded warrior at some point will ask him or herself, “What Now?”
I would tell them that this, finding a sport that you’re passionate about, is the “what now”. Rebuild your confidence in your ability to succeed in life or overcome setbacks one race at a time and the outlook of your future as a challenged athlete will grow your spirit daily as an individual with a disability.