Lessons on Resilience From One-Armed Big Wave Surfer Jeff Denholm

Robert S. Hays

“For me to excel at a little something, it has to be extreme,” Jeff Denholm tells me more than the mobile phone following finishing a thirty-minute stationary swim in southern Oregon’s Rogue River. Salmon swam earlier Denholm, 54, as he took 1 stroke following the other, grabbing the water with his remaining hand and following up with his ideal, in which as a substitute of his biological arm—which received torn off in an accident—he’s in good shape with a prosthetic carbon fiber paddle.

Denholm missing his arm at his shoulder when on a industrial fishing vessel in Alaska in 1993. A highly effective wave smacked into the boat and threw him off equilibrium when he was in the engine home restoring products. When he fell more than, the driveshaft pulled in his outstretched arm, the inward drag splintering his arm, fracturing his collarbone, and breaking his neck. In this kind of remote waters, it took 21 hours to get to a hospital. 30-foot waves in the Bering Sea pounded the vessel and 50-knot winds defeat down on the helicopter during his extraction. Surviving the incident was his very first obstacle. Months of recovery adopted. For the subsequent 27 a long time, he’s tailored. Arm use means a custom made prosthetic to secure a paddle and other units.

“I cried a little bit following I missing my arm, but I bullied myself again,” suggests Denholm, who experienced to carry on doing the journey sporting activities he liked. “I have a really large own bar. No make a difference how much I go, I constantly am hungry for far more. I thrust myself to the brink, which means often getting it also much.”

“The very first calendar year following I received damage,” Denholm provides. “I stayed with a good friend in Vail, Colorado, in which I skied one hundred ten times in a row. I reported ‘I am not disabled I am an athlete.’”

Raised in York Seashore, Maine, Denholm grew up participating in hockey, climbing mountains, racing triathlons, skiing, and surfing. He dreamt of turning out to be a bush pilot and traveling in Alaska following the incident, he replaced the dream with function as a qualified diver. That function led to selecting up a gig on famous undersea explorer Barry Clifford’s exploration dive group, which in 1998 discovered Captain Kidd’s seventeenth-century ship in Madagascar. That function strengthened his existence trajectory pushing own limitations. Ever given that, he’s searched for underwater concealed treasure, when continuing to ski, surf, kite board and mountain bicycle at a large degree.

Currently, Denholm resides in Santa Cruz, CA, in which a brief travel up the coast usually takes him to a magic formula major-wave surf split like Mavericks, but with out the crowds. Large wave surfing grabbed him since it satisfies his ADHD brain. Staring down a massive wall of water he is aware he has two alternatives: trip accurately or fall major. Throughout a wipeout at an outer reef in Oahu during a historic swell, waves drove him 50 ft down to the ocean flooring, slamming him difficult adequate to lacerate his ft. A 2013 tow surfing injury induced far more injury his remaining foot is held together with plates and screws.

“For me, with major wave surfing,” Denholm suggests, “it’s about the journey having there and everything included in making ready for it. It’s about the majesty of currently being in the ocean when it is so highly effective like that. Which is what I dwell for.”

In addition to surfing, Denholm is an achieved paddleboarder who’s competed 4 situations in the Molokai two Oahu Paddleboarding Globe Championships in which he endured 32 miles of chaotic open up water. Throughout his very first race, the glue holding his prosthetic arm to his entire body peeled away from his pores and skin, forcing him to entire the closing 10 miles by paddling with 1 arm. Exhausted, he crossed the finish line in 8 hours, 8 minutes. To Denholm, the victory was that he knew he could do it, and he would be again for far more.

As he continues to thrust his entire body, accidents pile up. 3 a long time back, he sustained a traumatic brain injury when skiing at Squaw Valley, CA, when he collided with a good friend in steep terrain, tomahawked down a cliff band, remaining unconscious for thirty minutes. Yet another time, he overshot the landing on a ski soar at Snowbird, UT, herniating his discs and fracturing his lumbar vertebra. “After a existence of motion sporting activities, my backbone has taken a beating,” he suggests.

“As my entire body has unraveled, I’ve set far more aim on business—I went from currently being a full-time athlete to a full-time businessman. Which sucks,” he suggests, releasing a major chortle.

Denholm’s function existence has taken its possess exclusive path, with previous professions such as mariner, industrial diver, and shipboard medic. He’s also a surf ambassador for Patagonia, 1% for the World, and Save The Waves Coalition. And he performs a mentorship role with young adaptive surfers. “I advise on training, and I’ve talked folks off the ledge, basically,” he suggests. “I sense it is a contacting and a duty.”

These times, he focuses on two things: leasing firefighting engines as a USFS firefighting contractor, and as founder and CEO of Atira Programs, makers of Robust Water technological know-how, a prime-doing, biodegradable, non-poisonous hearth suppressant.

For the very last 10 a long time, he’s created and produced the water technological know-how designed to just take on the mega-wildfires that are ravaging the world (such as 1 threatening his possess California yard, at the time of push). He’s having inquiries from about the environment such as Australia, which just lately made headlines for its immense firestorms (in February 2020, in New South Wales, seventeen million hectares burned and two,500 structures ended up wrecked). In anticipation of these new fires, he’s functioning with the Australian governing administration for answers, such as working with cannons to blast his hearth suppressant product or service into firestorms.

“I’m hell-bent on having the business to undertake new methods to halt these tremendous fires,” he suggests. “That’s in which my singular aim is. Which is been the hardest detail I’ve tried out to do.”


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