I met and interviewed a lot of interesting people over my time working at SBS World News but this was one story that I felt compelled to tell and enjoyed doing so.
Mike Coots is an American who happens to surf with a prosthetic leg. After a shark bit off his right leg at the age of 18 while he was bodyboarding, he returned to the water, learnt to surf with a prosthesis, and now encourages other amputees to do the same.
Coots had a great way of articulating the importance of sport and recreation for people physical disabilities. He said that being in the water stopped (other) people from “staring” and by bringing a group of amputees together for a common activity there was a chance to share “what technology” and what opportunities are available. He also described losing a limb (or being born without a limb) as being “part of a club”.
For a long time, I had never come across anyone with a disability quite like mine and looking back, I feel I have missed out on opportunities to learn what more I could do. These chances and talking to other people who are in a similar situation is a great place to share ideas or pass on contacts. An Australian Paralympic Committee development officer suggested to me that I look into prosthesis and now a prosthetic arm now helps me go to the gym and kayak, and other things that I have always been able to do are made far easier like jobs around the home. The device has also helped relieve backaches because I am more balanced.
I came across Coots through APC Prosthetics, the geniuses who makes my arm. They helped organise the event while Coots was in town getting his surf leg serviced. And yes I was encouraged to grab a board and jump in, but alas I couldn’t because I had a story to write! Maybe next time.
Video originally broadcast on SBS World News on 28 March 2015