100 adrenaline junkies witnessed professional chairskaters Christiaan “Otter” Bailey and Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham on Friday night, at Melbourne’s Riverslide Skatepark to demonstrate what you can really do in a wheelchair.
The twilight event was hosted by Disability Sport and Recreation (DSR), which aims at getting “positive health outcomes for Victorians with disability through participation in sport and recreation.” Operating for almost 50 years, DSR has ensured Victorians with disability that they have equal opportunities in sporting programs and recreational activities.
Christiaan Bailey is the only paralysed professional big wave surfer in the world and is currently in Australia for the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour (ASPWCT). However, Bailey was able to find time to link up with DSR and tour the country as part of a nationwide event to show handicapped children the amazing things you can do in a wheelchair.
Since sustaining his injury in 2006, Bailey has gone on to win the WSA National Championship in 2009 as well as being selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2010, alongside Aaron Fotheringham, as part of ‘Team Extreme’, showcasing chairskating in front of 73,000 people at the Paralympic games.
Bailey has formed his own non-profit charity, Ocean Healing Group, dedicated to providing opportunities to children who use wheelchairs the chance to participate in adaptive sports adventures in Costa Rica.
He is also an ambassador for ‘Life Rolls On’ foundation that promotes active lifestyles for children who have sustained spinal cord injuries.
Nitro Circus’s Aaron Fotheringham was also able to attend the short noticed event and demonstrate his skills that got him to where he is today.
The man known as ‘Wheelz’ was the first person ever to land a backflip in a wheelchair and since that day he has reached unbelievable heights, touring the world with Nitro Circus soaring over 50ft in the air and landing terrifying double backflips.
Fotheringham was born paralysed and believes the wheelchair should not be seen as a negative but as a positive and conveys that messaged demonstrating his abilities to young people across the world.
Fotheringham’s motto is “keep trying, anything is possible” and sees the wheelchair as more of a toy rather than a constraint.
Bailey and The Ocean Healing Group wrap up its tour of Australia shortly before heading to Germany to demonstrate and mentor more young people.
Photos by Grant Roberts