Adaptive Skateboarding

SkateboardingJon Comer began skateboarding at the age of 10, and it was soon after that he knew that it would be his life’s passion. “Within two years of doing it, I knew I’d be doing it for life,” he says. “I’m stoked.”

Comer, 30, a professional skateboarder and below-the-knee amputee, will provide tips, answer questions, and demonstrate his technique at the O & P Extremity Games skateboarding clinic July 30 in Orlando. “For any kid that wants to skate, I will skate with,” he says. In addition to the clinic, Comer will be among the judges at the Extremity Games at the Orlando Watersports Complex July 28-30.

Comer is a nationally known skateboarder, and travels the country representing skating industry companies at contests, competitions, and other events. At his first professional event, he placed tenth in the pro vert. Since then, he’s consistently placed in competitions, including in the top three of the Summer 2005 Velocity Games. Just prior to turning pro in 1998, Comer finished first in the Tampa Am.

“I have been on the Van’s Warped Tour for about six years running now,” he says. “I was a guest on the Tony Hawk Gigantic Skatepark Tour, and I have done numerous demo trips with skateboard companies and many random skate park events. I also was on the GT Bicycle Air Show Tour.”

If the competitors approach the sport the same way Comer does, they should be having nothing but fun. “That’s what a competition is to me,” Comer says. “It’s an adrenalin rush.”

What Comer would advise anyone who is unsure about beginning skateboarding is to simply go for it. “You don’t know until you try,” Comer says. “For me it was awesome. The advantage is you can do it by yourself, and it is what you make of it. You can use your own creativity.”

While many skateboarders with two biological legs control the board through feel, Comer has to rely more on instinct, and visual checks of his footing. “As far as foot and ankle control, I started with a prosthesis and that’s all I know,” he says. “I look down at my feet more frequently than other boarders, but I can do a lot of tricks without looking.”

Comer doesn’t have a prosthesis exclusively for skateboarding, preferring to keep the same leg for all activities. He recently received an innovative prosthetic foot manufactured by College Park – the Venture™ Foot. The foot is flexible, has bounce, and so far is seemingly indestructible to the skateboarding punishment that Comer is putting it through. “I can now try tricks that I never thought of trying before,” he said.

Comer recounted when he first started skateboarding he was quite hard on his prosthesis, and so his practitioners (at his mother’s insistence) would make him a skate leg and a school leg. But Comer didn’t like having to switch out, so he would use the skate leg for everything, and when it wore out, he would switch to the school leg. “At my peak of destructiveness, I went through six legs in a year,” he says.

His abilities on the skateboard have given Comer a lot of national attention, including a documentary about his life, “Never Been Done,” made by filmmaker Matt Powers. The documentary was started about six years ago, and made its debut in 2004; it will be reviewed at the Barcelona Film Festival this summer. It has recently been released to consumers as a DVD through core skateboard shops and online with Never Been Done.

Comer is married and lives in Texas with his wife, Aimee, and son, Gabe, 8. Gabe hasn’t shown a strong interest in skateboarding yet, but Aimee is a roller blader and plans to skate competitively in roller derby.

Although Comer makes countless appearances across the country in competitions and exhibitions, he’s excited to be at the Orlando Games. “I’m looking forward to meeting other amputee skaters,” he said.

Comer became an amputee as a result of a 14-year-old joyrider running over him as he played on his Big Wheel in an alley behind his home in Texas. The car came to rest on his leg, and as the driver ran off, neighbors lifted the car, but the leg, ankle, and foot were permanently damaged.

Over the next three years, Comer spent a lot of time in hospitals and wheelchairs as doctors made unsuccessful attempts to restore his limb before deciding amputation was necessary. Instead of being depressed about the procedure, Comer said that he looked at the positive side and was excited about the opportunity to receive a prosthesis that would allow him to walk, run, jump, and play as he used to.

Throughout the years, Comer received encouragement from family, friends, his doctors, and others in the sport, including his hero, the late Jeff Phillips. Phillips, a legendary boarder and owner of Jeff Phillips Skate Park, nurtured his love for skateboarding. Phillips motto was “Skate for Fun,” and that is clearly what Comer does. “I started because it was fun, and I’ll do it until I can’t anymore,” he says.

Comer also speaks of the encouragement he received from his doctors at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, and he makes frequent appearances there to give encouragement to others who are facing a physical challenge.

Says Comer: “What I tell anyone who asks is, ‘you can do it.’”