What's strength? An interview with Fabrizio Passetti

Cover Photo by: Vanessa Yeager

A couple days ago, the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship was happening in La Jolla, California. Being the first year of this contest, the idea is to support challenged athletes to surf and believe in what they can do. I just don’t know how these people do it and this is definitely inspirations. All the people out there catching waves while they don’t have the full control of their body. Amputees, Quadriplegics - surfing just for the feeling to catch a wave. Struggling to stand up. Struggling to fall. Fabrizio Passetti, originally from Italy, was in California to train and be ready for the surf contest. We then decided to ask him some questions about surfing and his life – probably one of the raddest guy I ever talked to. We all know Italians are friendly and they have the best coffee, but that guy is just a human being filled with happiness and trust. I don’t think I would be able to do the same, but I believe you never know until it actually happens.

I’ve been reading almost all your blog (except the Italian parts, of course, even though I tried real hard) and end up finding a text you wrote about your story. What was your first idea by having a blog?

It was to sensitize the people about the story, not only mine, but the one of all the disabled athletes in the same situation as me or with different problems, but that shares the same passion for the sea. In my country, I am the pioneer of the adaptive surfing. For many years, I never had ideas, advices or assistance from specialists in the field to help me know if it was possible to make a prosthetic to be able to surf and so consequently, I lost "too many years of my life." I do not want the same situation to happen to other people, so I would like this blog to be a resource to help young people who love this sport. Nothing is easy in this world, but nothing is impossible. Unfortunately, I still haven’t been able to give lots of my time in this blog because I had to fight with all my strength to reach my goal, after the world will follow.

You recently went back to the water in Bali while you haven’t gone for years and years because doctors were telling you that you wouldn’t be able too. Do you remember the moment? How did it feel?

Credit: Kent Juliawan

Unfortunately, I remember very well why and it only happened a year ago! For a medical error, I risked losing a part of my leg to the groin. It was like dying.  To start over, I tried to enter the sea - you cannot pass on this legacy my son because surfing is the only thing able to transmit force, giving me the ability to forget everything else and leave all problems behind and to observe only positive light in front of me!

It may be a delicate question and I am sorry for asking, what happened to your leg? Doctors told you at 18 years old that you needed to get it imputed, but why?

I had a very bad motorcycle accident when I was 17 years old, the guard rail at the roadside had torn my whole leg and the artery was lucky to survive, then the infection has taken over and won the leg. The day of my 18th birthday, my doctors had to take this drastic decision. It was inevitable.

You are in California at the moment to get ready for the World Adaptive Surfing Championship – is it the first competition you are doing since you came back in the water?

It is the first competition since I got back in the water. I feel agitated, stressed, happy and proud. A mix of emotions exploding inside my body that I could not describe them all, truly an unforgettable experience! I am also a little ashamed because this fantastic event should be experienced in the best way possible and carefree, but I had to face thousands difficulties getting to California. I had to stay several months without prosthetic leg, a lot of money waiting to have a prosthesis to go up there and only the day before the flight they gave me my prosthesis. So many problems.

What kind of training do you need to do exactly to be ready for the water? Is it the same training as pro surfers or it’s something different as your situation isn’t the same?

I need to do the same workout and put all my heart and my love for the sea.

There is not that many surfers in Italy and when I see some, I find it awesome! What pushed you to surf and live for that?

Many people abroad think that there are many surfers in Italy, but not that there are many talented athletes! Certainly when I was a child there were far fewer. I was lucky enough to run into a community of friends that surfed, being couple years older than me and I could not help but take this positive energy that they transmitted to me.

 

I'm really grateful to be here. This event is not only a competition, but a way of being able to learn, help one another improve, and share new ways to improve surfing and life itself.

Follow his progress.

Credit: Via @hurley