Barry “Bazza” West, a C4 quadriplegic from Framfield, UK, may be the most active quadriplegic in the world. With no movement below the shoulders, he’s racked up an impressive list of extreme sports he’s done since his injury.
Mouth darts, downhill skiing, flying with just his head, kayaking, skydiving, paragliding, SCUBA diving, mountain climbing, even trimming bushes using a robotic arm, Barry refuses to waste time he still has on Earth. “We have only one life,” as Barry likes to say, and he definitely lives by his words.
Above all, Bazza is an unforgettable motivational speaker who’s all about “getting cracking” with life; a mindset we absolutely love. Read on for the absolutely awesome story of Barry West.
Why he’s fearless
Barry’s early years were idyllic and completely unaware of the disability world, and he freely admits it. Originally from Sussex, England, Barry comes from a large family and he was a very active kid. He loved rugby, and as he became a teenager, fell in love with boxing.
But while driving home from work in 1996 when he was 19 (he was a gardener; a job he loved), a badger jumped in front of his car, causing him to swerve and hit a tree, breaking his C4-5 vertebrae on impact. And this is where Barry’s personality begins to shine. For four months post-injury, Barry was on a respirator. Doctors told him he likely would never get off the respirator.
“I wanted to prove those buggers wrong,” says Barry, and that is exactly what he did. After training and working hard for over a year, he was finally able to get rid of needing a respirator. It was also during Barry’s first year while he was still in rehab at Stoke Mandeville Hospital when he began giving “talks” as he likes to call them; motivational speeches on moving on.
He also got into mouth darts after his injury, reaching the competition levels quickly. For eight years post-injury, his life mainly revolved around giving speeches and excelling in mouth darts. It wasn’t until 2007 when Barry was introduced to the Backup Trust, England’s premier agency that helps people with disabilities get out of their elements and “really” feel alive. “My life was forever changed for the better the cause of this organization.”
The Backup Trust first took Barry on an adapted skiing trip to Sweden. Next, he wanted to try skydiving, but the doctor he had refused to sign a waiver, saying he could get autonomic dyreflexia. Knowing the doctor was wrong (“I know my own body,” Barry says), he went out and found a new doctor, and went finally skydiving a year after his jump was delayed. It was a 12,000 foot jump, and Barry even donned his Superman costume for the affair. Watch
Next, Barry tried mountain-climbing with Backup, putting together a climbing team “Westy’s Warriors” and they reached the peak of Snowden, the UK’s tallest mountain, a couple years ago. He’s also climbed smaller peaks throughout the UK and has his sights set on one day climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Mouth painting is another passion of Barry’s and it’s something he’s been doing more and more of. All summer he has been giving live demonstrations of his art form at parks and festivals, and his ability just keep getting better. Watch Barry paint with his daughter looking on
Speaking of which, Barry is also engaged, and they have two daughters together. Being a father is something that comes naturally to Barry and it’s fun to see in his videos. He’s also teaching SCI newbies a variety of skills via Backup, like mentoring and wheelchair skills training. Yes, Barry is a true teacher.
Barry, in every sense of the word you are a SCI superstar. With a heart of gold and steely determination combined with a twisted sense of humor, you are thriving above and beyond, and you have certainly brought it on.
How did you find strength post-injury?
– Visit his official domain: Barry West Official
Watch the videos!
– Barry West gives an upbeat motivational speech at a private school dinner
– Barry West and his team climb the tallest peak in Wales, Snowden
– Barry goes scuba-diving in Barbados
– After 1 year of petitioning his doctor, Barry finally goes skydiving
– Got only your head? Barry’s hysterical “Bongo Cam”
– Mouth painting at home with Barry with daughter looking on