Oct 29, 2021
This month we’d like to continue our 10 year anniversary celebration by sharing Sam’s story.
“Sam is the kind of guy who pushes himself everyday during training and does it with a smile on his face. He is motivated to gain as much independence as possible so he can travel the country in his adaptive school bus. Go check out @Special Skoolie on Instagram! Don’t let his cool, chill facade fool you, he’s always got a slick comeback.” – Annie, Sam’s Lead Trainer
In April of 2016 Sam was your average 22 year old surfer kid. He was a self-proclaimed adrenaline junky and an adventurer that was always up to try something new. Being rambunctious twenty-somethings, Sam and a few friends decided to turn a hammock into a carnival ride. Sam climbed into the hammock, not knowing that his life was about to be flipped upside down both literally and figuratively. His friends pushed back and forth until that hammock was swinging wildly and he made a jump for it, hitting the ground with his feet to the back of his head with a loud pop. Sam had broken his neck at the C5 level, leaving him a quadriplegic.
Initially, Sam feared that life as he knew it was over. He saw his hopes of travel and his chances of surfing again fading fast. He also worried about not being wanted in the places he was before. Although he couldn’t move the way he used to, his doctors at the hospital stressed the importance of getting himself moving. His mom took to the internet in search of therapies for her son, where she came across CORE and the Oceans of Hope adaptive surfing event. Roughly a year after his injury Sam went to Oceans of Hope, got on a surfboard again, and just so happened to meet the CORE team at the event.
“I spent the first two years after my injury getting my life together,” said Sam. Still, his intuition told him it was the right time to push himself to do more. He started his recovery journey at CORE shortly after surfing in 2017, and since then he’s made it a priority to workout and stay active, even at home. Staying active isn’t his only accomplishment over the last four years. He found a new way to get involved again in the sports he loves, filming his friends surfing and skating and editing the videos. His newly found passion for video editing led him to enroll in a digital production program, which he graduated from in 2020. After graduating he landed a job as a film editor and still makes time to work on videos he’s passionate about outside of work. Sam has also adopted a special school bus to meet his needs and has traveled extensively along with his sister.
Going to school took Sam out of his comfort zone, challenged him, and allowed him to meet new people after his injury. His time at CORE also allowed him to meet more people, particularly more people in a similar situation as himself. “I gained more perspective about age groups and injuries. There are more people my age in the same position than I thought,” he said.
“If you think that it’s over you might not necessarily think you can enjoy your old pastimes, but there’s always some way to still be a part of the things you love to do,” were Sam’s words of wisdom to us. Through surfing and skating and photography and videography he was able to find a place that he felt he belonged and realized that not only could he still be a part of everything, but that people wanted him to be there.
Sam’s message to others was this: “Reintegrating and finding your voice isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Try things, and even if you fail, you still get the experience.”