On the last show of the day, on wood chip in the heat of summer, Darryl Tait attempted to flip his snowmobile while crossing a 65 foot gap. 35 feet in the air, while upside down, his machine died and 500 pounds of machinery and fuel dropped like a meteor and pounded Darryl’s terrified body into the rock hard ground below.
His spine snapped, his lungs collapsed and his heart exploded. To say he’s lucky to survive is ridiculous, it’s outright miraculous.
”The saving grace are my sports, that’s what keeps me saneDarryl TaitX-Game Competitor
Darryl is open and honest about the mental and physical challenges of adjusting to life as a T4 paraplegic including sharing his battle with several stages of depression. At first I wondered if he was always this softly spoken and reflective, or if that fateful day had taken the wind out of his adrenaline charged sails.
As is so often the case with active people who become paralyzed their focus post injury is on how they can get back to doing what they loved as soon as possible, and Darryl was no exception. He knew right away that sports would be the way to combat the dark days and take his mind off all the crap that goes with a spinal cord injury.
While still in physical rehab, much to the dismay of his physical therapist, Darryl began cruising around the hospital grounds in his wheelchair teaching himself how to drop stairs, hop curbs and spin on one wheel.
Before long the allure of the skatepark had him dropping into bowls, grinding rails, competing in WCMX competitions and becoming the first person in the world with a spinal cord injury to backflip a wheelchair.
But what Darryl is really passionate about is how the skills from the skatepark translate to navigating urban environments in a wheelchair. Before every WCMX competition, Darryl teaches clinics to others in wheelchairs with a two-fold purpose. The clinics get people in wheelchairs ripping around the park having a great time, but they also teach skills that translate to urban living and improve confidence and accessibility.
What are the three skills Darryl believes are essential to learn?
- A wheelie
- How to pick yourself up from a fall and get back in your chair
- How to navigate steep inclines
Skateparks are typically quite easy to access, but the remote wilderness in the Yukon Territory where Darryl lives is not. Darryl finds peace and solace in nature and has found ways to get out into remote areas by adapting equipment. Teaching himself to weld and knowing a few engineers certainly helped too.
His two go-to pieces of equipment are his off road handcycle, and a Honda 250 quad bike, which he uses with the help of a golf club handle and hose clamp so he can shift gears with his hands and ride deep into the Canadian wilderness.
”Exploring how to move using a wheelchair was liberating, exciting, and increased my independenceDarryl TaitX-Game Competitor
People often ask Darryl if he has ridden a snow machine since his accident. In his chilled out Canadian accent Darryl responds that not only has he ridden a snow machine, but three years after his accident he competed in the X-Games. Why doesn’t this surprise me? Much respect.
From near death, to depression, to adventures on wheels once again Darryl is an Adaptdefier through and through.
If he isn’t at the skatepark, or riding a snow machine you will find him sit-skiing, mountain biking, helicoptering to mountain glaciers, or studying to enter a career in medical imaging.
If you’d rather listen than read…
Listen to the Podcast with Darryl Tait now.