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I love watching people adapt their approach to riding waves when life throws them curveballs. As we’re all very aware, once you feel that sensation of sliding down an open face, you’re hooked. It consumes you. So you find a way to surf regardless of circumstance.
Marçal Leme da Costa, of course, isn’t like other surfers these days. When he rides waves, he definitely feels like other surfers. But for Marçal, simply getting into a wave is a herculean effort. After a motorcycle accident on a highway in Brazil, where he slid into a truck and was nearly killed, Marçal lost his left leg and the movement in his left arm. So he had to adapt his approach.
“I started to get depressed because I thought I would be incapable of doing any sport,” he said. “I really liked going to the beach and with the help of friends and family, I started to go out to sea. One day, seeing the surfers, I made up my mind that I was going to surf again and then I started to think of a way to make it possible.”
Since the accident, Marçal experiences shooting pain in his left arm so he immobilizes it in a sling to keep the arm tight to his body when he’s surfing. He sits on a board that is essentially a SUP. He adapted a paddle he could use on his right arm. “The idea came in a dream where I used an oar that was attached to my arm,” he said. “I woke up and got that image in my head. So I got in touch with a good friend and I took a PVC sewer pipe, the ones that are wider, and he helped me cut the pipe in the shape of my arm and we opened the mouth of the pipe with heat and he molded it until it stayed in the shape of a paddle.”
Marçal has since won a pair of silver medals at the South American Adaptive Surfing Championships. Riding waves essentially saved him after his accident nearly took everything from him, another testament to the power of salt water.