I was never an academic person. I hated school, fought with conventional subjects and traditional sports. At 14 I picked up a skateboard and fell in love with the independence, diverse community of people and the joy of playing without winning.
Snowboarding followed shortly after and at the age of 16 I was an athlete with the British Snowboarding team, travelling internationally. Again competition was not always my strong point, favouring the creative aspect of working with photographers and filmers to grow and progress.
At 22 I’d become the most published rider in the UK and had started to break in to the European scene. It was March and I’d qualified in one of Europe’s major competitions, completing qualifiers alongside the world's elite. On the morning of the final I was shooting for Channel 4 when I misjudged the timing of the jump and landed short, suffering a burst fracture to my T12 vertebrae.
That night – instead of being in the final – I lay in the hospital bed not knowing whether I would ever walk again. I’d felt like had lost my passion, the one thing I was ever any good at and all the amazing things that come with it: travel, community of friends… my whole identity! How I was, what I stood for, why I did what I did.
The operation was successful and after two weeks I’d managed to stabilise and start learning to walk again. The metal cage in my back braced three vertebrae and restricted many core movements. Still I persevered: walking 100 meters, then sleeping for four hours I was so tired; getting up and doing 200 meters the next day; 300 on the third.
By month 3 I could swim, so in the pool I got. A mile in the morning, every morning for the first four weeks. Month 2 it was a mile in the morning, come out, eat loads, sleep in my car and then get back in the pool and do another mile. By month 3 I could swim 2/3 miles a day.
I kept going. Running, pilates, football, yoga, and finally returning to skateboarding and the mountains to snowboard again. I realised that I am instinctively driven to do things I’m afraid of. To got to places that I’ve never been. To go through failure. Because failure is important. If you want to experiment then you must be ready to fail. If you don’t fail then all you are doing is repeating yourself. You have to change in yourself.
Like the mountains, there are limitless possibilities as to which line we can take. Everything is possible if you put your mind to it and are willing to see it and most of all: believe it.
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