Bega’s Jason Apps, better known as ‘Appsy’, has proved anything is possible with a little help from friends.
Three years ago, the 23-year-old was left a C4 quadriplegic after a snowboarding accident in Canada and has needed full-time care since.
He is left with no movement to his hands or wrists as well as his legs. But for Appsy, “anything is possible with commitment and good friends”.
On a trip to California in July last year, an adaptive surfing organisation had given Appsy the opportunity to hit up the surf for the first time since his injury.
“When I went for a surf in California, I was like ‘oh wow, I want to keep doing this’,” he said.
“If I can do it a lot of other people can, with positive thinking anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”
When Appsy was in hospital after his accident, he became friends with big wave surfer Mark Mathews, who was also in hospital suffering a serious leg injury.
“He had messed up his leg pretty bad from surfing a big wave. He kept telling me we were going to go for a surf together one day,” Appsy said.
In September last year, Appsy called Mathews to see if he was up for a surf at Snapper Rocks. The pro surfer was quick to reply and was keen and ready.
“He [Matthews] brought all this gear for a makeshift board and took me out for a surf – it was pretty cool,” he said.
The makeshift board was a soft top rigged up with pool noodles drilled to the rails which kept Appsy’s limbs from splaying outward on a wave.
“The board only worked for a couple of waves and then the screws all popped out and it became a little dangerous,” he said.
I saw no-one was on the wave with me or close by so I started panicking – which is the worst thing to doJason Apps
Unfortunately, his surf was cut short.
However, Appsy said he’d got his “froth back for surfing” and was determined to keep at it.
“I got home and met Jed Done who shapes boards, he had a few ideas for me and we went from there,” he said.
A new and improved custom shaped board was soon on its way, Jed Done of Switchfoot Boardstore in Pambula whipped up an 8ft2 fish with specific modifications to suit.
“It has heaps of volume and rocker to stop me from nose diving when I go down a wave,” Appsy said.
“It also has handles for my elbows to stop them from splaying out and help me prop up when I’m on my stomach.”
The board also has two fins at the back on the deck facing upwards to stop his legs from sliding off.
Last Tuesday, February 5, Appsy took his new board out at Tathra for a spin “with the boys”.
Things didn’t quite go to plan. Appsy was unexpectedly pushed on to the first “good wave” which had rolled through.
“The boys weren’t ready or expecting it, they were out there cruising and didn’t get on the same wave,” Appsy said.
He had rolled off his board and was face down in the water unable to take a breath of air for 10 seconds.
“I saw no-one was on the wave with me or close by so I started panicking – which is the worst thing to do,” he said.
Appsy isn’t one to be defeated.
“Now I have done that, it has made me overcome my fears and I will have it down pat next time,” he said.
Since being back in the surf, Appsy has been motivated to try out for the Australian adaptive surfing team to compete in the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships.
His focus is on breath training and the ability to roll on to his back after a wipe-out.
“I haven’t mastered rolling on to my back yet, and from my injury I have lost a fair bit of my lung capacity and my breathing plays up a bit,” he said.
“My goal is to hopefully make the Australian team.”