Reader Profile- Captain Zen
I broke my back in December 1998 in Cape Town in an incompetent hijacking. Our car flipped, throwing me half out of the window and snapping my spine.
I was 27, captain of a surf charter yacht in Indonesia, surfing some of the best waves in the world and getting paid for it! When I wasn't surfing, I was free-diving, spear fishing and running on the beach.
Three months before the hijacking, I was on the yacht in Sumatra with a friend. We were discussing our greatest fears and agreed that losing our legs would bethe worst - no more surfing or being physically free. Two months later, his paraglider collapsed and he was flung against Table Mountain, plummeting to the ground and breaking many major bones. Just as he was discharged, I ended up in the same room in the same hospital paralysed from the waist down, complete T12.
I had no insurance and huge hospital bills; I was more than just physically broke. I started my life in a wheelchair sleeping on the living room floor of my parent's house. I struggled, feeling sorry for myself and bummed Mexico, Brazil and America, trying to find myself in drugs, drink, girls and guns - with the odd healer thrown in for balance. I wanted to die and, high on a Mexican cocktail we had smoked, had a go at Russian roulette. I needed to finish the job and hit on drowning as the way to go with Rio Nexpa as the place of execution. A friend carried me out past the break - he didn't know my plans. I paddled out on an 8ft board like Gollum, from Lord of the Rings, white, skinnyand soul-less.
"Easy," I thought, "drown in the surf, leave this life doing what I loved. But human spirit is a funny thing; it makes us want to survive, cling to life and savour each breath. I caught my death wave, a puny two-foot foamy, and discovered: a wave is a wave is a wave! Instead of drowning I had one of the best waves of my life. I wanted more!"
I went from 50kgs of lizard limbs to 70kgs of ripped muscle. My emotional strength crept back. The hottest girl on the beach, chased by every buff, bronzed surfer, wanted me! The ocean, and surfing, brought me back from suicide.
My spirit for adventure has returned. I've sailed the Indian Ocean, surfed, survived the Asian Tsunami of 2004 (getting my yacht over a 30-foot wave!) escaped gun-toting pirates off Tanzania, visited shamans and healers and back-packed Portugal on a quad bike. I've also accidentally pee'd all over an expensive carpet on a super yacht, been delirious with bladder infections (deep at sea!) and crapped in the bushes at a billionaire's property in Monaco - whilst fending off his dogs! We can treat life as a comedy or take it seriously. We can shine, unafraid to be our best, or collapse in upon ourselves. The human spirit is powerful, seize it and use it! It'sas easy as that!
The next plan is to build a 60-foot fully wheelchair accessible yacht, for all differently abled folks - blind, legless, nut jobs, delinquent teenagers - the whole shebang! It will be an eco-friendly floating platform of inspiration, hope, adventure and fun, a rehab centre for those who need to get their buttswhipped into shape by Captain Zen (as the crew call me!) and nature. I'm working to raise the one million dollars required. It will come - of that I have no doubt - plus, my girlfriend is super clever so I'm sure she will think of something - haha!
Everyone is disabled in some way - either physically, spiritually ormentally. The job is to get on with the job, spend as much time in nature as possible, dream wildly and believe in yourself!