Her circumstances never defined her, but her decisions did.
When Amy Purdy lost her legs below the knee at the age of 19, her life didn’t stop, in fact, it’s where her life truly began. “When I lost my legs, I didn’t want to focus my energy on what I lost,” she says, “I wanted to focus on what I gained.”
“Literally the day after I lost my legs, the doctors referred to me differently than they did before,” she says, “I thought ‘Nothing has changed. I’m still a human and the same person. I still have the same aspirations.’”
Amy wasn’t ready to let the life she desired exist only as a dream. After falling in love with snowboarding at the age of 15, she knew it was what she wanted to pursue for the rest of her life. Amy credits snowboarding with giving her the ability to push through adversity. “Snowboarding is what gave me that confidence to get back up after falling down. There’s so much going against you, and yet, you figure out things about yourself that help you overcome. You realize ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so much more in control of my life than I thought I was.’”
For Amy, “limitation” is another word for “inspiration,” just a new way of seeing the world. It’s a mindset that has helped transform her life over the past 20 years and allowed her to break the barriers so many thought she never would. “I see where I think we’re limited, and I question it. How can we use what we have to be the best we can be? Once we do that, we realize those limits don’t really exist.”
An athlete, author, Paralympian, motivational speaker, actress, clothing designer…there are so many ways to label Amy Purdy, but she defies any one definition. When she was told she would never snowboard again, Amy found a way to get back on the board by developing her own unique set of legs. She wound up realizing her dream of becoming a professional snowboarder on a global stage, eventually pioneering the sport of adaptive snowboarding in the 2014 Paralympic Games. Her dream was destined to be a reality. As she says, “Everybody telling me I can’t do something sparked me to ask questions of ‘Why not?’ and ‘How can I do these things that I want to do.’”
Her journey back to her beloved sport of snowboarding is what inspired her to co-found the non-profit Adaptive Action Sports with husband Daniel Gale back in 2005. “We had figured out a way to get me snowboarding again,” she says, “And we wanted to help other people do the same.” Those types of resources did not exist when Amy was younger, and she didn’t want to be limited by the label of “disabled athlete.” She wanted a community of like-minded people and access to resources that empowered her abilities, so she decided she needed to create that community and Adaptive Action Sports was born.
“We all came together to create this movement that ultimately lead to the Paralympic Games, that brought adaptive snowboarding to the X-Games and to Dew Tour.” In this community, Amy found even greater inspiration. “We have so much potential that I don’t think we’ll ever fully realize it. It really comes down to your ambition and how far you want to go with things.” Amy was capable of so much on her own, but through Adaptive Action Sports, she’s learned, “We feel limitless when we’re together.”
For her, #EqualEverywhere is about recognizing that limitless potential in everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from, because nothing should stop you from living your life to its full potential. “When I look back, I am where I am because I lost my legs. Because of these challenges. It’s all about embracing who we are today that helps you get ahead and that gives you a gift.” She hopes that her journey and experience can help others. “I’m always thinking of whoever is out there that’s struggling or maybe just trying to find themselves. That’s who I hope to inspire.”
It all comes down to the choices we make, in spite of circumstances. “It’s not about overcoming limits,” she says, “it’s about using them. How do you use what you have today and embrace it and build upon it? You never know where that will lead.”