Far north in the Yukon Territory of Canada—north of Juneau, Alaska—you won’t find that many people, let alone a wheelchair-user: and that is exactly the way Darryl Tait likes it. Born and raised in the small town of Atlin, British Columbia, Tait grew up immersed in Winter sports.
He soon found out that things, however, never go as planned in life; Tait sustained a spinal cord injury 10 years ago at just 19 years old. To see what this he has done with his life since is extraordinary. From trying literally dozens of adaptive sports to rejoining X Games, learn how this adrenaline junkie is still doing what he loves while living with a spinal cord injury.
Why He’s Fearless
Tait was only four years old when he started snowmobiling, and he took to the sport right away. With a pilot dad who loves speed, Tait was allowed and even encouraged to partake in various Winter sports as a child. He began snowboarding at a young age and became so good that he competed in the Arctic Winter Games in 2006 and in the Canada Winter Games in 2008, at 16 and 18 years old respectively. At the same time he was still snowmobiling, becoming incredibly good at freestyling.
This is when Tait decided to switch sports and become a professional snowmobiler. The sport is small compared to sports like snowboarding, making it easier to climb the ranks. After the switch, Tait went to Maine in 2009 to demonstrate backflips on his snowmobile. However, the engine stalled midair, causing his 500 pound snowmobile to fall on him. He was diagnosed with a T4 complete injury and spent several months in rehab.
Early on, he decided to not let his injury take away the sports he loves. He had no interest moving away from the Yukon, despite the lack of accessibility. While in rehab in Whitehorse, Yukon, Tait searched wheelchair skateboarding and found Aaron Fotheringham, a wheelchair skateboarder who helped put WCMX on the map. While still a rehab patient, Tait rolled himself to the nearest skate park to try WCMX.
Once he was discharged, Tait began trying various adaptive sports. He also took on the task of doing his own repairs to his equipment, which required welding knowledge. “I was originally studying welding to get into the trades before my injury,” says Tait. “Unfortunately, I had problems with employment, as people saw me as a liability in the workplace. I couldn’t continue my education to get my journeyman welder’s license.” Tait still welds, however, and does his own repairs.
He has tried the following adaptive sports since his injury: Mono-skiing/sit-ski, adapted snocross/snowmobiling, adapted motocross, adaptive mountain biking, sledge skating, adaptive climbing, para-surfing, adaptive 4-wheeling, adaptive kayaking, adaptive rowing, handcycling, adaptive bobsledding, and adaptive snorkeling. Tait says that he may one day take on either para-surfing or bobsledding at the Paralympic-level.
Also known as the “Backflip Guy,” he does backflips in his wheelchair and even landed one in a snowbank, which got him featured in a Family Guy episode. He is the first Canadian to ever land a backflip in a wheelchair. In 2013, he rejoined X Games, competing in the Adaptive Snocross category. Tait placed 8th in this competition. He also helped create a custom seat for his snowmobile to help stabilize his core.
While he hasn’t competed in X Games since 2013, Tait has worked with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program where he coaches adaptive mountain biking, a sport he fell in love with post-injury.
Over the years, Tait has become an expert at sharing his adaptive sport adventures online, notably on his Instagram account, where he shares photos of his wheelchair adventures in the beautiful Yukon wilderness. He is so good at social media, in fact, that he teaches a class on how to use social media to propel adaptive sports forward at the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.
Tait recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of his injury, celebrating his “rebirth” with families and friends. He also went back to get his prerequisites for medical radiological technology and is a rep for Kinetic Gear, a European adaptive clothing company that makes practical adaptive gear for all the elements.
When he’s not doing a jaw-dropping adaptive adventures, Tait is also helping kids with disabilities. He works with various organizations, helping facilitate adaptive sport clinics for kids with disabilities. He is also an ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation and has helped improve accessibility in both the home and work environment—as well as at public parks—throughout Canada.
– Follow him on Instagram: @d_rail