From the first day I could walk, I always wanted to go fast.
Whether I was riding my snowboard, skateboard, or dirt bike, I was always trying to find a way to go full throttle. The sensation of speed is the reason I fell in love with snowboarding and motocross. I never imagined that the sport I love would take away the use of my arm.
As the story often goes, it began as a typical day. I was at a motocross competition in Worthman, Texas, at the Freestone Country Raceway, where the rainstorm from the previous night left the track muddy and deep. During a practice lap, my back tire slid out on the finish line jump. The rider behind me had no time to react and landed directly on my neck. The impact knocked me out for several minutes, and when I woke up, I immediately knew that something was wrong. The official diagnosis was something that no athlete ever wants to hear: full paralysis of my dominant right arm. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I was determined race again, and started rehabilitation full of hope and ambition. Then, about a month after my accident, a drunk driver blindsided my father's truck, causing us to flip multiple times. After that, the hope of gaining my arm back vanished.
I never imagined that the sport I love would take away the use of my arm.
Through all of my hardships, I never let my injury slow me down. I learned how to write and draw with my left hand, and even play Xbox with my feet. After a seven-year hiatus, I decided to start riding again. It was no easy accomplishment. As an athlete, the hardest part of my recovery was overcompensating for not having any use of my right arm. To this day, I still struggle with balance and chronic pain from my nerve damage. I fight with simple things that most people don't think twice about, like putting on boots, buckles, zippers, and bindings.
These days, I let the seasons dictate what I am working on. Since every sport that I do besides motocross involves a board, it is really great cross training. Skating, snowboarding, biking, surfing… they all feed each other. While I still compete in motocross, snowboarding has become my priority because there is more opportunity to make a career in this industry. Fortunately, collaborating with Donna Carpenter and Burton Snowboards helped make riding a lot easier.
Working with Burton’s Innovative Prototyping Engineer Chris Doyle and the rapid prototype team has been a massive blessing and a huge step forward for me and my riding. I explain the difficulties that I have with gear, and they listen. Burton has made my riding and gearing up process significantly smoother. I used to be the last team member to be on the mountain because buckling my bindings was hard for me. With Step On®, I don't have to fuss with straps and buckles. I can hop off the lift and get right on the board. Now, I spend way less time fidgeting with my bindings and more time practicing my runs.
Now, I spend way less time fidgeting with my bindings and more time practicing my runs.
My next hurdle is competing in the Paralympics in Beijing. The International Paralympic Committee has removed my class out of the games because there are not enough girls showing up for Upper Limb. I am fighting to bring my class back, to grow it, be the voice, and be the first female to represent the USA for upper limb injuries. By getting the word out and encouraging more upper limb women to come out and compete, I’m hoping we can represent our class in more competitions and World Cups.
At this point in my journey, I wouldn't want my life any other way. I'm grateful for what my disability has shown and taught me—I wouldn't be who I am today without it. It's humbled me and made me grateful for what I have, rather than what I don't.