An Adaptive Surfing Champion’s Journey of Resilience

surf with amigas retreat amiga story

Do you ever wonder how you’d react in a life-altering, potentially threatening situation?

I find that until we’re confronted with a risk to our bodily autonomy or basic functions, it’s easy to take our bodies for granted, and forget about the incredible feats that they help us accomplish on a daily basis. But when the body and mind are forced to adapt, it’s amazing how we can relearn and persevere through extremely difficult situations. This week on the Second Breakfast podcast we had a chance to chat with Victoria Feige, who shares her story of resilience and adaptation.

At age 18, Victoria’s life was changed forever after a snowboarding fall left her paralyzed her from the waist down. But she didn’t let her accident slow her down. Now a 5x world para surfing champion, Victoria has an incredible attitude and takes life by storm, even from a wheel chair. Play is her wheelhouse, and she’s relearned how to move through the world and remake her passions in a new body. Even while being airlifted to the hospital, she has always had a persistent focus and passion for life.

Here are some snippets of her story: 

“It’s kind of a crazy story. It sounds horrendous, but I’ve had a lot of fun along the way. So I grew up able-bodied, Canadian, skiing, snowboarding, telemarking. I’m a bit of a risk taker, and did a whole bunch of different sports. I have two older brothers, who are a bit rough and tumble.

When I was 18, I was snowboarding with a friend on spring break. I love to do big mountain riding, like, trees and shoots but I also love jumping in the park. That day I just sent it in the park at the end of the day, kind of showing off for a photo. And I overshot it, got about 15 feet of air and landed badly. So I have a compression fracture of my L1 vertebrae, which means that I’m essentially I was paralyzed from the waist down.

Then [I had] surgery and then really it’s three months at least of rehab in the hospital, learning how to navigate an environment and a body that you’re not that familiar with.

You have to kind of relearn how to move through the world. But I used whatever skills and resources I had to get me where I wanted to go. So I just transferred my skateboarding skills to wheelchair skills, including the ability to see terrain and perform an ollie. I used to rock climb a little bit, so you can find little handholds in an airplane or a subway station if the elevator breaks. You can find ways to navigate the environment.

surf with amigas retreat, amiga story
Headshot taken by Nigel Wallace Media

yes, I have a disability. Yes, I’m a wheelchair user on land. But One of the things I love about surfing is that if I catch a great wave in the water, have a good takeoff and a sick turn, I did that. there’s no tokenism. There’s no special treatment.

My level of function is like far beyond what they could have expected but I also was kind of a high energy, high achiever before I got injured. Those are the elements that make you who you are. That element of pushing the boundaries is without a doubt why I got injured, but it’s pushing the boundaries and trying to get more is also what made me do so well after my injury. 

There’s so much you can do after spinal cord injury. There’s so much that you can achieve and explore and there’s so much life left to live. And yeah, it might look a little different, but the important things of who you are, your friends and family and the things that define you don’t have to change. Unless you want them to change, but itdoesn’t have to determine your whole life.”

To learn more about Victoria and her inspiring story, listen on the Second Breakfast podcast.