I lost my leg. Now I’m a champion of the waves
Jean-Paul Veaudry became a pro surfer by accident. The photographer had a lifelong passion for surfing, but only pursued it as a hobby. One day, driving his motorcycle home from a photo shoot, a car hit him. The damage was irreparable. The bottom half of his right leg had to be amputated and Veaudry believed he would never surf again. For months he avoided the sea. “The ocean was a quite a dark place to me,” Veaudry says. But the prospect of never returning was unthinkable. “I knew I had to get back in,” he says. “Surfing is my life.”
With grit and resolve, Veaudry learnt to ride waves with a prosthetic and was back on board within a year. He then travelled to California, teaching other people with disabilities how to surf. There, a group of university students donated a prosthetic specifically designed for surfing. Veaudry realised his capabilities extended beyond what he ever imagined, and began competing internationally, joining the national adaptive surfing team. “I never thought I could take it to professional levels until after the accident,” he says. In 2016, Veaudry competed against people with varying disabilities at the Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships, and was recognised as the second best amputee surfer in the world at the time. “When I look back at all the difficult times of my life I realise that without it I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Veaudry says.
As he carves a new path in his surfing career, Veaudry feels his greatest accomplishment is showing people their way to the water. “I’m lucky I get to inspire hope in other young surfers,” he says. Veaudry’s perseverance is unshakable, and he won’t let anything get between him and the waves. “Everyone’s battling with their own type of disability, it could be financial, marriage, alcohol,” he says. “Mine happens to be physical, and you need to learn to overcome it.” This local champion is showing the world that when we are dealt a bad round, we don’t stay down. We rise up.