Born to Board

The Scarecrow is a toe side, front flip to a switch. The
wakeboarder takes off from the water toe side, does a front flip and lands heel
side. Want to make the Scarecrow even more complicated? Imagine doing the trick
with one hand. For Mike Krohn, the Scarecrow is just another challenge. Another
wake soon to be conquered, like the back roll he landed in 2010. There is
footage of that one on the web. One-handed tricks are all Krohn knows and he is
pretty good at performing them — even in front of a camera.

Back in the water

  Mike Krohn
  As of press time Mike Krohn hoped
to unveil new tricks at the Extremity Games in San Antonio.
  Images: Mike Krohn

In September 1998, Mike Krohn was feeling sore from the
previous day’s wakeboarding session. He decided to hop on a jet Ski and
ride with his friends on a lake in Peoria, Ill. While riding, he fell off the
jet ski. His friend, riding on a different personal watercraft, swerved,
desperately trying to avoid Krohn. He unfortunately hit the back of
Krohn’s head as he waded in the water. The accident resulted in a
fractured skull, leaving Krohn in a coma for 10 days. He would spend the next 6
weeks in the hospital. The nerves that controlled Krohn’s left arm in his
brain stem were severed. After waking from the coma, Krohn had no feeling in
his left arm. He tried working around the injury but after multiple
complications and 4 years, Krohn decided to have the arm amputated from the

No one would have blamed Krohn for swearing off jet skis
forever. No one would have questioned him if he simply decided to stay away
from the water for the rest of his life. But that is not Mike Krohn.

“The summer after my accident, I got back on a jet
ski,” Krohn told O&P Business News. “I had to get my
feet wet again. I had to get back in the water.”

Frustrating road

Krohn was back on a jet ski, but his ultimate goal was
returning to wakeboarding.

“It was a couple years after getting back on a jet
ski that I started wakeboarding again,” he said. “That was a
frustrating road without a doubt, just trying to put everything back together

Wakeboarding demands precision and perfect balance from
the rider at speeds easily eclipsing 25 miles an hour. Despite being involved
with wakeboarding for more than a decade, Krohn had to relearn the basics with
one hand.

“I have a cosmetic prosthesis, but to be honest, it
is like having a 2×4 strapped to your chest,” he said.

Krohn went to Ride the Spot, a wakeboarding camp led by
wakeboarding legend Darin Shapiro. Shapiro and Krohn hit it off instantly and
became close friends.

“He is a major influence on my life,” Krohn
said. “He was the one that found the
Extremity Games and suggested them to me. Darin helped me get
in that direction.”

Krohn had actually been thinking of entering regular
wakeboarding contests, competing against able-bodied boarders.

“He was the one that encouraged me,” Krohn
said. “He told me I had to try the Extremity Games.”

  Mike Krohn
  Mike Krohn was amazed by the
support he received from his family, friends and fellow wakeboarders.

Adaptive wakeboarding

In 2009, Krohn entered Extremity Games 4 in Davison,
Mich. He could not believe what he saw — wakeboarders with prostheses
riding wake to wake. The experience stayed with him. Krohn knew he had to get
the wakeboarding community behind adaptive wakeboarding.

“I thought it was incredible,” he said.
“I thought it was incredible seeing all of the different athletes come
together for this event supporting one another. I blew out an ankle and
finished fourth, but my personal experience at that event was awesome. It was
just cool to see all those people with their disabilities competing.”

After Extremity Games 4, Krohn went to the World
Wakeboarding Association (WWA) and worked the contacts he made through his
relationship with Shapiro. The idea was to bring adaptive wakeboarding to the
mainstream wakeboarding community by adding adaptive divisions. The idea
stalled when the 2010 USA Wakeboard Nationals were postponed and his contacts
at WWA left. But Krohn continued to work, in search of different avenues for
the sport that he loved.

Visual aids

Although his idea of adaptive divisions stalled on land,
he continued working on his craft in the water. In 2010 at Ride the Spot, Krohn
landed his first one-handed invert.

“Actually, that particular video, I spent 4 days
doing just that trick,” he said. “Crashing, crashing and crashing
until we finally got it on video.”

And the crashes? Did they make it to film?

“We don’t save those,” Krohn joked.

The footage eventually made its way to Wakeboard
website, where the wakeboarding community finally
witnessed and experienced the skills of an adaptive wakeboarder. Krohn took
advantage of the sudden attention.

“From there, I started contacting WWA, working with
their president, Shannon Starling,” he said. “Starling was receptive
to the idea. We brought in Beth Taylor from the Extremity Games and put all
this together.”

Earlier this year, it was announced that Adaptive
Standing and Adaptive Sit-Boarding would be included at the WWA Nationals. In
addition, the Extremity Games made their event the qualifier for the WWA

“As far as wakeboarding goes, the whole adaptive
thing has really taken off in the last year or two,” he said.


“None of this is really about me,” he said.
“I am just proud to bring adaptive wakeboarding to light. The WWA opened a
lot of doors for a lot of people that did not really have an opportunity to
compete or enjoy themselves. I am thrilled with the support from the
wakeboarding industry. From the pro riders to the companies. It has actually
been wonderful to receive so much support.”

Krohn also knows that he could not have fought through
the many bumps in the road without the support of his friends and wife,

“I would tell any amputee or disabled individual
interested in this amazing sport or any sport, to just keep fighting,” he

What’s next?

As of press time Krohn was scheduled to compete in the
standing adaptive wakeboard division at this year’s Extremity Games in San
Antonio. It is the only event he is locked into, as of press time. He is hoping
to qualify for WWA Nationals at this year’s Games and WWA Worlds after
Nationals. He admitted he has been spending time in the water working on a new
trick. Watch out for The Scarecrow.

“But more than my accomplishments, it is about the
kids and giving someone the opportunity to compete,” he said. “I am
just proud to be a part of it. Just having an adaptive division in Nationals
and Worlds is kind of a big deal. I think now is a hot time for adaptive sports
being involved with action sports. I think the door is open for the prosthetic
and adaptive communities to get involved.”

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