During that time rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury usually took about six months. But Erik has always been goal driven, and he had one focus: get out of hospital as soon as possible. He knew if he took too long he would miss his second semester of university and if this was the case, that would mean waiting until the following September before enrolling again. He couldn’t have that.
In five weeks he was out, back with his life and friends, barely stopping for a second to dwell on the accident that had just changed his life.
There was one thing though that he felt he was missing out on as a wheelchair user. And that was balanced based skill activities, like skateboarding.
“I was fortunate that 25 years ago, I got a two wheel hand cycle… I’ve been able to ride and balance… and because of that I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of balancing.”
But the only balance based activities he could think of were skiing and cycling. It wasn’t until about four years ago, when he saw another person in a wheelchair on a regular longboard that he felt inspired.
So he began experimenting. He added a motor to the board, because without one, he was pretty limited, and from there it just kept growing.
“I just kept thinking, well what’s the next thing I can do?”
From skateboards, to snowboards, to longboards, and now finally his latest idea – an adaptable hoverboard, which he entered into the Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge. Erik received the discovery award for his idea and received some funds to help him develop it more.
“I created it as part of this Toyota mobility contest I entered in recently. But what it is, is sort of the outgrowth of my interest in personal mobility.”
Today he’s helping to change the lives of other people living with spinal cord injuries, with his new venture, Red Pill Innovations.
As a T4/T5 paraplegic, Erik has very little core muscles – but finds he can maintain his balance on his adaptable boards.
“The minute I use my hands for anything other than support, I lose my ability to functionally
balance. So one of the things that I found with the wheelchair boarding stuff is because
I’m always holding on to the wheels, and that’s my form of balance.”
For Erik, variability is important. The great thing about his skateboard is that he can hop on it and whizz around, up and down his own driveway. But his longboard is a different matter. It can reach speeds of 20 miles an hour, so Erik usually takes it out on the bike path near his home, where his kids can cycle along with him. He also designed a landboard, for more off-road terrains and trails. Highly functional devices, with only one big challenge: mounting them.
“I’ve made it pretty unstable to increase the manoeuvrability of it… it’s like jumping a curb that’s multiple inches high, except for the fact the curb moves.”
The best part about the boards is changing up the direction of movement from always going forward to going sideways.