At age 23, Corey Reed thought that he had it all.
He was an audio/video engineer and had just opened a business with his friend installing home theaters. He was a competitive athlete, playing baseball and water polo in high school, as well as snowboarding and surfing recreationally. He also participated in the local fire department cadet program.
However, a horrific car accident instantly changed all of that for him.
“I was living that life — reckless, like nothing is going to hurt me, nothing is going to stop me,” Reed, now 30 years old, told O&P Business News. “Thinking that I am fearless and I am going to conquer the world. But that night flipped my world upside down real quick.”
In 2005, Reed and his friend were driving home from a bar after a night of partying, and his friend, who was heavily intoxicated, lost control of the wheel and the car crashed into a tree before flipping several times.
Reed was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, sustaining major internal injuries, collapsed lungs and a tear in his heart. He was in a coma and was placed on a ventilator for more than a month. Because of the high risk for infection, Reed’s right foot, which was also severely injured, was amputated.
Image: Gilbride M, O& P Business News
Despite the severity of his injuries, Reed started to recover. He was removed from the ventilator, but when he awoke, he learned the greatest shock of the accident: he was completely blind.
“The blindness was definitely the most traumatic. Afterwards, I would wake up every morning expecting to see,” Reed said. “I think I did that every morning for the first 30 days. It was devastating.”
Reed spent the next year recovering from the accident and trying to regain his strength and mobility, although he still had not accepted his new circumstances.
“The first 3 to 6 months were pretty heavy, and I wasn’t in the best spot,” Reed said.
He was especially hesitant about wearing his new prosthetic leg, which he received about 6 months after the accident.
“The prosthetist put that first test socket on me with the trainer foot, and I thought I was going to get up and run out of the place,” Reed said. “But it was not like that. I felt like a foreign object was stuck on me, and I remember breaking down.”
Reed continued to struggle with his prosthesis, only wearing it for an hour or two at a time before growing tired of it. However, his outlook changed when he was introduced to Extreme Mobility Camps, Inc.
Extreme Mobility Camps Inc. is a Christian ministry that hosts camps in Winter Park, Colo. for blind adaptive athletes interested in winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing. Reed first learned about Extreme Mobility, who hosts the camps in partnership with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), from his father, who met the director of the camp by chance.
As an avid snowboarder before the accident, Reed was interested in attending the camp, although he admits that he went begrudgingly at first.
Image: Michael Maina
“They dragged me up there, and I was this lost soul — I didn’t know where I was in my life,” Reed said. “I had a lot of identity before through material things, like a typical 23-year-old. So here I was just lost.”
However, when he arrived, Reed was impressed with the facility and well-trained instructors, and he was back on a snowboard almost immediately.
“Before, I was a hardcore boarder, and all of a sudden, I had that feeling back,” Reed said. “I remember being on the chairlift and hearing the boarders coming down below me and hearing the chatter, and I thought, ‘Okay, it sucks that I am in this situation, but I am riding up on a chairlift, and a year ago, I was in the ICU basically on my death bed.’ It was a pretty emotional moment.”
“That was a big turning point for me. Mentally, physically, spiritually — all kind of coming together,” Reed said. “That was where I found an opportunity to do things that I did before, but maybe even on a bigger level.”
Around the same time that Reed started training to compete, parasnowboard was added to the Alpine Skiing Program for the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. However, the visually impaired division would not be included at the Games.
“I would have had to qualify as an amputee, and the numbers that the other boarders were putting up are the numbers that pros are putting up on the course,” Reed said. “So those dreams were kind of crushed.”
With his hopes for joining the US Paralympic team aside, Reed decided to focus on wakeboarding.
“I actually enjoy wakeboarding a lot more,” Reed said. “Snowboarding was my thing before, but wakeboarding moreso now because when I’m snowboarding, I have a guide. It’s a total team effort, and I have to listen to every count that he gives me, and if I don’t, it’s dangerous. But with wakeboarding, I grab the handle and that boat tows me where I need to go, and I can free ride.”
Reed attended his first Extremity Games, an extreme sports competition for athletes with limb loss or limb difference, in 2012 after doing an internet search for adaptive wakeboarding competitions.
“Being introduced to the Paralympic snowboard scene and meeting a lot of the top athletes, I was inspired,” Reed said. “This whole action sports world was thriving with competitive stuff, and I was all about it.”
Reed competed in his second Extremity Games in June in the elite wakeboarding division, and to date, Reed is the only visually impaired athlete to compete at Extremity Games.
“It was cool being the first blind athlete to participate in Extremity Games,” Reed said. “I hope it opens the door for other visually impaired athletes in the future.”
Ride With Core
Reed has now established a lifestyle brand, Ride With Core, which he hopes will motivate other people to strive for a healthy and active lifestyle.
“Right now, it’s a lifestyle brand, which is obviously inspired by my life and achievement and trials and tribulations, and the lifestyle that I live through fitness, nutrition and a strong spiritual grounding,” Reed said. “My Christian faith contributes a lot to where I am today.”
Ride With Core, which adopted the tagline “Ride with faith, not by sight,” will be launching a website soon, and according to Reed, it will contain material and content about fitness, health and nutrition, as well as a pro shop with products from brands and sponsors that he partners with.
In the future, Reed hopes that Ride With Core will evolve into a nonprofit organization that can provide scholarships and sponsorships for other athletes, as well as organize and host camps for adaptive athletes.
“I am trying to bring wellness to action sports athletes, as well as inspire people in between,” Reed said. — by Megan Gilbride