Riley Poor is a lifelong professional in the world of action sports filming. In his previous AB-life, he was a film director at Red Bull capturing footage of skiing, snowboarding and free-ride mountain biking. “It was the type of dream job that few are lucky enough to encounter,” he gushes.
Post-injury, however, Riley had to re-tool his career, but he’s been able to stay true to what he loves. From becoming an executive producer at Nike to writing a new blog in which he and his girlfriend share their life together in Portland, Oregon, Riley has made an impressive transition since becoming paralyzed. Read on to see exactly what we mean.
Why He’s Fearless
In high school, Riley, now 34, began filming action sports, and he knew right away it was something he wanted to pursue. His career in the industry took off, allowing him to have an amazing professional life in his early 20s. But in 2009, everything changed when Riley jumped into a shallow pool, breaking his neck. “I was jumping off the edge of the pool doing a backflip and a friend jumping in next to me pushed me and stopped my rotation,” he says. “My head lightly clipped the bottom of the pool, and all the angles were just right to dislocate at C5/6.”
Knowing plenty of people with SCI before his injury because of his work in extreme sports, Riley was more prepared than most for his new life with a SCI. “I was surprisingly at peace with my new reality and somehow knew that this was a test I was meant to take,” he says. “I also knew enough quads and paras to know that I would never be the same.”
Once he was discharged from the ICU at a New York hospital, Riley chose Craig Hospital as his rehab facility. “And I hopped a $26,000 flight to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado,” he says, “where I spent the next four months rehabbing.”
Impressively, Riley never let his career fall to the wayside. “My injury was barely a break from work as I was in production on a self-directed documentary for Red Bull that I still somehow managed to deliver on time that year,” he recalls. “My opportunity to come to work at Nike came shortly after finishing the film, and I jumped on it and have been happily riding my desk here ever since.” He is currently an Executive Producer in the production studio at Nike, making films and advertisements.
About three years ago, Riley’s life improved significantly in two more ways – he met his girlfriend, Andrea, and he began the remodel of a single-story home he recently purchased. On a tight budget and using some awesome creativity, Riley and his architects designed a beautiful universally accessible home without breaking the bank. A one-bedroom home with an open bathroom in the bedroom (with a curved glass shower made from basic materials), his house is something to behold. Go on a house tour with Riley here.
And check out his and Andrea’s blog, Poor House Love. Through their blog posts, they share what it’s like to have a spinal cord injury in a relationship. You’ll find posts on traveling together as a couple, tiny homes for wheelchair users (Riley’s family helped invented the WheelPad), even the benefits of using a hyperbaric chamber to ease chronic pain (it works!).
Life may not be the huge adrenaline rush it was before Riley’s life, but he’s 100% ok with that. He had his fun. “I have a drone that I play with for fun,” he says. “I also enjoy getting out and about on my electric arm bike when the sun is out, and Andrea and I have also become dedicated gardeners.” So yeah, life is still good for Riley, just in a different way.
Post-injury, did your desire to live life at full-speed waver at all?
– Follow Riley & Andrea’s adventures: Poor House Love
– Riley’s blog: The Life of Riley Poor
Watch Videos of Riley