Dries Millard’s inspiring adaptive journey

Dries Millard is a 24-year-old complete T8 paraplegic who found that living life with a disability gave him new perspective, and the ability to appreciate the small things. Before a terrible motor vehicle accident in August 2008 left him in a wheelchair, Dries was an avid sportsman. Not only did he represent Boland Rugby three years in a row at Craven Week, he also represented Boland at the SA National Athletic Championship three years in a row.

“Since my accident, I knew that I would have to find another way to fulfil myself. In the first year after my accident I opened myself up to many disability orientated programs and activities.”

True to his nature, Dries took up archery and also joined the Twisters Wheelchair Basketball team after his accident. His passion for the outdoors and his new perspective on life led him to pioneer Adaptive Surfing in South Africa. “After two years of teaching myself how to surf again, I finished a course in surfing instructing. Adaptive Surfing creates an alternative sporting opportunity for people with any form of disability, from all walks of life. More importantly it creates a new perspective on what life as a disabled individual can be, free from societal constraints,” says Dries.

During his free time he chases waves all along the West Coast, body boarding whenever he can. His aspiration is to become the first paraplegic to surf the most extreme surf beach in SA, Dungeons Beach in Hout Bay, Cape Town.

Being disabled is not as big a problem for Dries as the challenges he must face daily “due to ignorance from government, local and national, to the needs of people with disabilities.”

Dries studied Humanities at Stellenbosch University and also obtained a degree from the University of Cape Town to be a tour guide. In 2012 he started doing motivational speeches. One of Dries’ regular missions is to speak at schools to educate the youth about disability and to motivate them on everyday life, using his own life as an example. “With these skills combined I want to give people living in wheelchairs the experience of a life time.”

When this inspiring young man decided to lead his life as an example of what life in a wheelchair can be, Dries started Extreme Abilities Adaptive Tours.

“It is the innovation of disabled people who’s taste for adventure drove them to creating opportunities for themselves and other people living with disabilities to allow themselves to explore and travel like any other person.”

Extreme Abilities are planning to host several events in the near future which includes the annual Adapted Surfing event, in commemoration of ‘International Day for people with disabilities’ is scheduled for 7 December 2014 in Strand. Another

Adaptive Surf event is scheduled for 1 March 2015. Wetsuits and surfboards will be provided.