‘We Are Human’ Series: Brad Smeele
EveryHuman

‘We Are Human’ Series: Brad Smeele

Every human has a story worth sharing and a voice that deserves to be heard. In this series, we’re celebrating the awesome people in our community and the events that have shaped them into who they are today. 

Meet Brad Smeele, a former pro-wakeboarder from Auckland, New Zealand.

After falling in love with wakeboarding, Brad left his hometown when he was 17 to travel around the world, compete, and dedicate himself to perfecting his craft. 

And, perfect it he did. In his wakeboarding career, Brad landed two Junior World titles and became one of the first in the world to land a ‘1080.’ His desire to become bigger and better spurred him on to perform bolder stunts and in 2014 he succeeded in landing the world’s first ‘Double Tantrum to blind’ stunt. 

Then, life took an unexpected turn. 

While attempting to perform the same trick a few weeks later, Brad took a heavy crash that shattered his C4 vertebrae. In an instant, the life he once knew - riding the wake and flipping through the air - was stripped away and he had to adjust to life as a paraplegic. 

Six years on, Brad is now using his platform to share his story and encourage others to live an action-packed life. We’re proud to welcome him into the EveryHuman family. 

What is one significant challenge you faced after your accident? 

Accepting my limited mobility and adjusting to a life that didn’t involve being physically active. I had put so much importance on the physical me beforehand that I felt really inadequate and like a burden. I truly grieved and missed my life from before. 

How have you come to find happiness in adversity? 

Acceptance was the first step. The word ‘acceptance’ sounds submissive, but by doing that it allowed me to figure out who I am and then own it. ‘Owning it’ means to not hold back who you are and not try to fit in. I also had to learn how to be present and not constantly live in the past. 

What do you wish more mainstream fashion brands knew about adaptive fashion?

It seems like the majority of mainstream clothing is not far off being suited for adaptive users. With some awareness of disability fashion needs, and a few small tweaks, more clothing could be available for adaptive users. It’s as simple as elastic waistbands, and removal of buttons and pockets on the back of pants that can make regular clothing adaptive.

What misconceptions do you wish the abled-community would stop believing?

There’s a common misconception that when somebody becomes injured, they suddenly become different. I’m still the same person, and I want to be treated that way.

What advice would you give young aspiring athletes today in terms of conquering challenges? 

Put yourself in the best environment for your sport and surround yourself with people who are better than you... people who you can learn from. If you immerse yourself in what you are passionate about, then that is the best way to learn and succeed.

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We are ecstatic to have Brad as an offical ambassador of EveryHuman