Surfing with a spinal cord injury
My name is Massimilliano Mattei. I was born in Livorno, Italy in 1976, and raised in Piazza Cavallotti near Gagarin (famous for their garbanzo beans). I also lived very close to the old ''frati'' (doughnut place). At the age of 21 I left for the Philippines, where I worked as a chef. After the accident I returned back home to Livorno, Italy.
After a long period of hospitalization and physical therapy, I started playing sports again. This is also when I started living. I began playing tennis, and through those games I fought and suffered in order to win. I understood there couldn't be any feeling sorry for yourself, therefore my will power took a new approach to do what everyone else does.
I went through terrible moments; my father passed away, my companion and I divorced. When destiny worked against me, a change occurred. I decided to return to the Philippines.
When I returned to the place where I surfed with my old friends, I found the desire to return to the ocean. I went back home together with an organization. We were able to organize ourselves and also encouraged many people with disabilities to try this wonderful sport.
Surfing is a philosophy of life. It allows you to travel, be in contact with many people, but above all to be one with the sea. Some of the children could not even swim- an incredible amount of emotion and satisfaction arose in me.
Now that I will participate in the World Championships will this passion for surfing, I will still not become a professional surfer. At the moment, this opportunity will allow me to expand this sport so that everyone will be able to enjoy it. I hope that one day it will become an Olympic discipline.
This event is organized by I.S.A., a federation which deals with advertising competitions in the world of surf, and this time for athletes with disabilities. The event will be held in 2017. We don't have an exact date yet, but it is a very important event that will allow seeing the competition in action.
We are representing Italy, therefore we shall try our upmost best to live with a physiotherapist, a PE instructor, and a Surf trainer, who will accompany us in the water, being that we shall be monitored and in case of help brought ashore.
I'm currently trying to contact an expert to make me a special surfboard for this particular event. The board would be for the Italian team- the creator and maker of this board will take a lot of personal satisfaction in this project.
In 2015, I also founded an association named ''Angels'' with Laila and Valentina, which is also called ''Happy Wheels.'' We are also bringing forth a project named Wheeladvisor, (a surf school project) and ''Surf for all'' at Tirrenia, Pisa which has recently opened.
Any small gesture, be it big or small will help us make our dreams come true, but most importantly, if you have will power, nothing is impossible, we shall ride the waves for this reason too.