Adaptive Action Sports - Amy Purdy
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Amy Purdy -- Adaptive Action Sports

An artist and competitive snowboarder, Amy Purdy dreamt of spending her adult years traveling the world and snowboarding. But at the age of 19, after a day of experiencing flu-like symptoms, Purdy was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock and diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a deadly blood infection. After fighting for her life for nearly three months, Purdy lost all kidney function and both legs below the knees. None of this, however, stopped her from pursuing her dreams.

“After I lost my legs, all I wanted to do was snowboard again,” Purdy said. “I remember spending an entire year on the computer, looking for ‘adaptive snowboarders’ or ‘snowboard legs’ or ‘adaptive snowboard schools’ or just something that I could connect to. I already knew how to snowboard—I just needed to find the right legs.”

While Purdy acknowledges there were “tons” of information available on adaptive skiing, cycling and running, she found nothing tailored towards the more extreme sports that she loved. “I kind of had to figure stuff out on my own and get myself snowboarding competitively again,” she said. “I went through all types of different legs to try to learn which were going to work for me. Luckily I was able to figure it out.”

Shortly after having resolved her own search for adaptive equipment, Purdy partnered with friend Daniel Gale to develop Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), an organization for fellow extreme sports enthusiasts who have disabilities. “Daniel’s mom is a nonprofit consultant,” Purdy said, “so she really encouraged us to start up a nonprofit organization. We weren’t too sure what was going to come out of it at first, but once we were founded, we easily fell into a great niche. Now it’s kind of taken on a life of its own.”

It wasn’t long before that life quickly began influencing the lives of athletes who, like Purdy, were unwilling to accept a future without sports. Another of Purdy’s friends—actor and professional skater Jason Lee—also contributed to the cause. “Jason decided to throw us a big fundraiser to just kind of kick things off,” Purdy said. “We raised quite a bit of money from that event, which was able to kind of just get us going. From there, we started sponsoring a couple of action sport programs.”

When Brent Kummerle—a professional rock-climber and friend of Purdy and Lee—organized a three-day event for amputees and wheelchair users, he received a financial contribution from the steadily-growing AAS. The following year, the United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA) opened an adaptive class as part of its national competition, the largest snowboard competition in the world.

This expansion of adaptation marked something of a personal victory for Purdy. When she had attended the national event in previous years, she found “it was just me and a couple of other random people who showed up to compete in the adaptive division. So we decided if we marketed this event better, and if we made it more affordable, more people would show up and attend.”

Her efforts paid off. Purdy estimates that, in the first year after her marketing push, the event had 15 adaptive snowboarders. The next year boasted 20. “We’re hosting and promoting and taking over that adaptive division, helping the numbers grow,” Purdy said. “We’ve really fine-tuned it. We’ve done that every year.”

These days, the visibility of Purdy and AAS is so significant that athletes regularly seek her out. “We get e-mails every day from people around the world, or right here within our country,” Purdy said. “They relate to what we’re doing and relate to the people involved, since we’re all really active and we don’t let anything stop us. Every time we bring on a new athlete, that person becomes one of our closest friends. It’s pretty cool.”

Purdy’s joy and support for her athletes were obvious at the recent X Games in Los Angeles, an event that now features paraplegic and adaptive events for Moto X, skateboarding and BMX. During the preliminary runs for the Moto X event, Purdy positioned herself at the starting line, not just as a sign of encouragement, but to make sure enough help was available in case one of her athletes went down.

“For me, it’s hard for me to just sit back in the stadium and watch,” Purdy said. “I feel like I need to be down there on the dirt and totally involved. Blood, sweat, and tears go into our organization and our events. It’s a nurturing instinct. I love these athletes so much, and when one of them goes down, I’m ready to drop whatever I’ve got and run out there and help..... continued in ABILITY Magazine
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Articles in the Greg Louganis Issue; Ashley’s Column — Bringing Home the Gold; Sen. Tom Harkin — Where Are the Jobs?; Renne Gardner — Running With My Son; The Pearls — Stories That Demand to Be Heard; Amy Edwards — A Living Special Effect; Adaptive Sports — Getting Back in the Game; X Games Uncovered — Taking the Inside Track; Cityzen — A Whole New Voice in Rock and Roll; Adaptive Sailing — Finding Your Sea Legs; Greg Louganis — Still Diving Into Life; HIV and AIDS — Battling a Fatal Disease; Bad Boys — Cracking Down on Discrimination; Healthy Hoops — Take Your Best Shot ; ABILITY's Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences... subscribe

Excerpts from the Greg Louganis Oct/Nov 2010 Issue:

Greg Louganis — Interview

The Pearls — Stories That Demand to Be Heard

Adaptive Action Sports — Getting Back in the Game

X Games Uncovered — Taking the Inside Track

Toby Forrest with the Band Cityzen

Renne Gardner — Running With My Son

Healthy Hoops — Take Your Best Shot

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