I love snow sports and enjoy watching Ski Sunday on the BBC. The episode broadcast on
Sunday 5th Jan 2020 featured an article on Darren Swift (Swifty), the snowboarder without legs. I watched it and I was inspired.
Army veteran Swifty lost both his legs above the knee in a bomb explosion whilst serving in Northern Ireland in 1991.
Swifty was in Laax for the Brits, the annual British Ski and Snowboard championship, and
was interviewed by Jenny Jones. He discussed his experiences regarding the explosion, his injuries and the 18-month rehab period, and divulged that the main thing he wanted was independence.
Swifty’s adventurous spirit was never going to allow him to remain in one place. In the time after losing his legs, Swifty explored the world in his wheelchair. He took part in many incredibly physical and risky activities including canoeing, hand cycling, skydiving and sit-skiing.
But what next? Having enjoyed sit-skiing for about 10 years, Swifty saw some young lads snowboarding and said to himself “I want to do that, I want to become a snowboarder”.
Naturally, many people told him he needed knees and legs to snowboard. He was so keen to
do the sport he thought it was worth trying anyway and began working with a designer friend to come up with a solution. They had to figure out how Swifty might fix himself to a board!
Dale Renard and Swifty drew their first draft of their design on the back of a beer mat in the pub before heading to the workshop to build a binding system. The binding system was used to attach Swifty to the board, but it needed to be tested, which was Swifty’s department.
During the testing process Dale and Swifty learned that Swifty was prone to breaking the boards. This is because the forces he generates are far greater than those created by other riders. A bit of kitchen chopping board solved that issue! This really made me think about how therapists, medical professionals, sports coaches and other professionals talk to people who really want to do something. How easy it is to place obstacles in someone’s way rather than look for solutions.
If someone has the drive and ambition to do something then surely it is in the best interest of that person to be positive, and offer support and encouragement?
Swifty is a brilliant and inspiring example of what a positive problem-solving attitude
can achieve. It took some trial and error to find the best way of binding his prostheses to the board and he had to use some inventive methods of getting on or off chair lifts to get up the mountain. But he never gave up! Have a look at the clip and I’m sure you will agree, he looks cool!