THIS IS MY STORY
“I guess the craziest thing I’ve ever done is throwing a quarter back flip off a ramp,” 28-year-old Jerry Diaz of Kissimmee, Florida, says. “I go down a half pipe, up the other side of the half pipe and get enough air to do a quarter back flip – a trick that snowboarders throw called a Misty Flip — while riding my wheelchair. But unlike Aaron Fotheringham who performs with the Nitro Circus, instead of landing facing forward, I land the trick facing backwards.”
Diaz conducts seminars and competes in WCMX (Wheelchair Motocross), an organization created by Aaron Fotheringham and Christian Bailey about 10 years ago.
His mission in life is to show people that he can do anything while riding his wheelchair.
Diaz has thrown tricks while flying 10 feet off the ground; he goes up and down escalators in his wheelchair; and he’ll climb all the way to the top of a gym on a gym rope with a wheelchair, as he says, “strapped to my butt.” Diaz does 15 tricks that BMX riders and skateboard athletes do, but instead he does them while riding a wheelchair. He practices, trains and coaches in skateboard parks.
Diaz explains, “My injuries were the greatest blessings I ever could have received. When I was in the hospital after my accident, I searched for different sports I could learn. I found a video of Aaron Fotheringham doing a back flip in his wheelchair and thought that Fotheringham’s video and trick were the coolest ever. After doing a Google search on Fotheringham, I was totally blown away by his cool tricks on YouTube. But I was so badly injured, and my mental state was so messed up, that I couldn’t see me in the future attempting tricks like Fotheringham was throwing.
One of the reasons I put WCMX in the back of my mind was I didn’t want to get hurt anymore.
“However, a year or more later, I went to a skate park and felt the thrill of pushing my wheelchair off a ramp. I remembered when I’d ridden skateboards. At that time, no one taught wheelchair motocross. I studied Fotheringham’s videos and those of other WCMX riders. Then I’d go to the skate park and try to throw those same tricks. I concentrated on landing my tricks as cleanly as the pros did and developed my own style and some unique tricks of my own.
“I work 20 to 30 hours per week at a surf shop that sells shirts, bags and beach accessories. Then I’m always at the skateboard parks, working to improve, learning new tricks and helping coach other people who ride wheelchairs to throw tricks. I’ve learned enough, performed enough and coached enough to have sponsors who today help me with equipment, including Frog Legs that makes suspension wheelchair forks and 3” and 6” aluminum wheelchair casters in black and colors, to save from excessive vibrations, jolts and shocks.”
“Everything on the wheelchair I ride is customized for me by Box Wheelchairs, one of my sponsors. The company has put full suspension on my WCMX wheelchair that also has a thicker aluminum base to withstand the punishment I give the chair, and all the parts are top-of-the-line. You can’t compete in WCMX in a wheelchair that’s built for everyday use. I weigh 145 pounds. But I’ve gone up in the air 10 feet before, landed flat and broken nothing on my wheelchair thanks to its’ design.