BERLIN — When Garry Moore lost half of his foot during a marine construction accident in 1997, he feared that he would never be able to skate again. After two years of trying to skate with a rolled up sneaker, Moore made a bold decision. He would undergo a trans-tibial (below the knee) amputation and wear a prosthetic leg for the rest of his life.
"Part of the reason for going higher with the amputation was I knew I would be able to get a prosthesis that had a functioning ankle that articulates in all directions that you need for skating and surfing," Moore said.
While it may seem drastic to some, skateboarding became a form of therapeutic recreation. Entering competitions, however, allowed Moore to reach out to other amputees and encourage them to stay active by pushing the accepted limit of what amputees could accomplish.
It was at one such competition that Moore met Rob Nelson, another amputee skateboarder from the Outer Banks who had lost the use of his right arm in a motorcycle accident. Both men felt that skateboarding played an important role in their rehabilitation and as their friendship grew, the pair envisioned creating an organization that would provide amputees with the resources and opportunities to participate in action sports.
"There were lots of organizations if I wanted to go golf or play tennis," Moore said, "but at that time there was no organization for amputee skateboarders to network and reach out to one another."
In 2004, Moore and Nelson officially created Amped Riders when they launched their first website. Almost immediately, interested callers from the United States and abroad began asking about the program and what resources they offered.
"[Originally] it was not a super structured deal it was just trying to network and reach out to people and then they began to reach out to us," Moore said.
For its first event in 2005, Amped Riders took three amputee children to Camp Woodward, a premier skateboarding camp that offers participants high quality facilities, instruction and a chance to interact with the pros. Then, at the end of the week, the group demonstrated their skills for other amputees at a nearby rehabilitation hospital.
"The kids got to go to Woodward and have a blast," Moore said, "but then also to go and do a demonstration at a hospital and kind of give back to the other amputees there."
Now, six years later, Amped Riders has grown to include Amped at the Beach, an annual weeklong retreat with a program featuring skateboarding, wakeboarding, surfing and barbecuing on the beach at Assateague. Children and adults from all over the Mid-Atlantic region come to the camp to network, make new friends and push the prescribed limit of what amputees can do.
"These kids, they get along pretty well on their own anyways," Moore said. "They are used to overcoming adversity to begin with but [being with other amputees] it still helps … and it is extremely important."
The program’s philosophy is backed by a strong belief that parents and families play an important role in an amputee’s life and its daily itinerary offers family members the opportunity to meet with others that have been through a similar experience.
"I do think [parents] are much more comfortable with [their child’s] injuries at the end of the week because they get to hang out so intimately with other kids that are going through what they are going through. Plus, they are able to talk with other parents about what they are going through," Moore said.
While all of the participants in the program have some form of disability, their injuries run the gamut. This makes the process of learning how to skate personal and unique to each person providing for greater, personal comfort with his or her disability.
"It becomes pretty individualized because there are so many different kinds of amputations that you have got to adapt to whatever the situation is." Moore said. "You can obviously give pointers and help along the way, but the outcome is very individualized."
This year, held July 17-23, Amped at the Beach will coincide with the Dew Tour, an extreme sports event to be held in Ocean City.
"[What] I want people to take away from it is, it is all about recreational therapy not just for physical healing but also mentally and emotionally," Moore said. "But, it is also not all fun and games. At the end of the day, we are all still people dealing with a disability and this is sort of a way to give us an outlet … for the kids and the parents."
At the moment, Amped at the Beach is limited in the number of participants that can attend. Yet, the crew is always looking to improve the quality of its program.
"We want to try and maintain that informal family feel that we have," Moore said. "I have two kids and, God forbid, if anything ever happened to them I would love to be able to take them to a camp like this. So in the back of my mind I always think how can we set this up so that people are relaxed, have a good time and make the best of the situation.”
For Moore and the other Amped Riders, Amped at the Beach offers a chance at fulfilling the group’s motto — veho pro causa or ride for reason.
In this case, that reason is to inspire others to overcome their perceived physical limitations while continuing to keep pushing to achieve their own personal goals. Yet, as Moore said, "sometimes you just need to take it easy and take your leg off so to speak."