A human is made of a mind, body and spirit. Antonio Hömpler is an incredible human, but he is the perfect example of a person where of the human trinity his spirit leads his body and mind. He is an excited person who feels alive, a welcoming person willing to meet new people, an explorative person who is probably willing to take more risks than the average human. Growing up, he tried to glide and ride on everything possible. In his twenties, he unfortunately had a serious injury that paralysed him. But, this same overactive eternal burning spirit is the same thing that kept him roaring on in a happy life afterwards. He is unstoppable. He is a true endless rider.
Tell us how your accident happened and what was the result?
In 2010 I had a snowboarding accident on a big jump and broke three rips and one vertebrae. As a result I was paralized from the hips down so I can't feel or move my legs.
What was your initial reaction when you discovered it would not be possible to walk?
Just sadness and desperation.
What gave you hope and drive to keep living with a smile like you do even with such news?
As I got released from the hospital it was the handcycle that motivated me to discover new places around my hometown Hamburg. Also, new friends I made that I didn't know me before the accident treated me like everybody else, without pity and insecurities. That's what gave me hope and drive after the hospital to start a new life.
A year after the accident, I started studying psychology and met my girlfriend. That's when I really accepted my disability and arrived in my second life.
What sports activities can you do and enjoy now that you are paralyzed?
Most paralyzed people just play table tennis or basketball but there is much more to do. With a lot of research and effort I could try sledge ice hockey, seated mountainbiking, wheelchair kiting and skating with a wheelchair in skateparks (WCMX) and other sports.
What I always loved was skateboarding, so I had to find a way to get back on the boards one day. I started with balancing my wheelchair on a longboard and invented wheelchair longboarding by putting rails on the side of the board to prevent the wheelchair from rolling off the board. Then I got into seated wakeboarding did monoskiing on snow and kitesurfing at the north sea. This year I will also start adaptive surfing with a waveski, which is a sit on top kajak shaped like a surfbboard to ride waves.
Only recently did I get to enjoy seated longboarding much more because of the Mellow Drive. Before electric longboarding, I had to push myself uphill for longboarding. Also now I can really find good hills and corners. I can move freely with the electric board and discover new places and spots to shred.
And I am proud that I am back on the board! Wakeboarding in summer, kitesurfing when the wind is on, snow skiing in winter. Now longboarding is on the list and soon I will be surfing again.
When you are not riding, what do you enjoy to do with your time?
I spend most of my time listening to music, cycle, being outside and around friends. I really enjoy cooking. I study psychology and work a little on the side as a caretaker for children.
Tell us about your experience with a Mellow and how you were able to adapt your longboard to e-paralongboard.
To be able to ride I need cushions and straps and a seat that holds and protects my hip and at the same time allows me to move as if there was no seat at all. I am still in the process of building new variations of seats.
The best thing about the Mellow experience is that I can lean into very steep turns and accelerate. It's like hitting the best corner with the right amount of speed at the right time to do a really steep turn when relying on gravity.
What is your favourite sensation when riding the Mellow? Any new tricks you would like to try?
I love drifting/sliding and accelerating during steep turns. So far I can do stop slides and do big 180° corners with a slide. I want to be able to do fluid consecutive left and right slides.
Tell us the story about when you realised that the Mellow could help you get around on your sitbike?
Every time I longboard, I put my board behind my wheelchair and pull it behind me. After a couple of sessions I realized that when I put my backpack on the board it applied enough weight so I could use the Mellow to push me while cycling.
What is something you would like to say to people that end up in disabiling situation that have lost some hope for living a happy life?
Loss is an inevitably a part of life. When parts of your life aren't possible anymore, you always can turn to and focus on other aspects of life to find something new and grow.
Let's end this with that old Hunter S Thomspon quote - “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”