The Inland Paddler: Amor Fati

Live Like Cody

I have not been seriously hurt that often – a torn MCL longboard skating and then 27 stitches in my calf thanks to a sup surf fin. After each of those incidents, I was admonished on more than one occasion to rethink my activities….to “stop” doing the things that make me happy. Because of my age, because I am a “grown” woman – code for a 54-year-old-woman. Because I could get hurt again….more seriously.

Each time, after more than bit of fuming, I waved those comments off because of their ridiculousness.

I’ve sometimes wondered – in the face of those relatively minor injuries that did heal – how I would handle it if something more serious ever happened to me. Because it could.

I hope I would handle it like Cody Iorns.

Cody was an Army medic who lost both arms in a motorcycle accident. He was also a kickass standup paddleboarder. He did not let the results of that accident stop him from doing what he loved, from being on the water. He figured out a way to paddle with his prosthesis and he was eventually helped along the way by Quickblade paddle genius Jim Terrell. He was competitive.

He was amazing to watch at races. He was an inspiration.

He showed everyone who saw him that you don’t have to sit down, quit and stay on the couch when life throws a curve ball at you. Where there is a will, there is a way. Sometimes, if not all the time, the obstacle before you actually provides you with that way.

And on top of all of that, he was a really, really nice guy.

So when we learned the news a week ago that something had happened during a group paddle in Annapolis, and that despite the efforts of his paddle brethren, Cody died after falling off his board, the sadness was overwhelming. It still is.

The outpouring of love and sorrow in the wake of his accident has been significant. By contrast, some of the comments on social media, mostly from people who did not know Cody or never had the opportunity to see him compete, has been infuriating. Many of those commenting have no idea what it is we do, especially when it comes to downwinding. Assumptions are made. Judgements cast. He should have done this, he shouldn’t have done that, didn’t he know better? Allegations of hubris. And so on and so on.

We still do not know everything that happened last Wednesday night. Did he simply fall? Did he have a medical issue like a seizure? We do know he was wearing safety gear. He wasn’t alone. Yes, he was out in conditions most people might think were “rough.” But he was downwinding. Downwinding requires high winds. Again, he was wearing the gear. He was not alone. Even the investigating law enforcement officer was quoted in a story on National Public Radio as saying he did everything right.

Cody was a more than capable paddler. He knew how to handle his board. In those conditions. And with his.

His unique situation may nor may not have had anything to do with what happened on the water.

Bottom line

It can happen to all of us. No matter who we are, or how skilled we are, or experienced. We accept that when we take up any kind of sport, but especially one involving water. It is our responsibility to know our limits, of course, but that should not stop us from pushing ourselves, and overcoming and expanding those limits.

We can choose to accept what life gives us and work with it, and love it. Embrace it. Find a way. It’s a concept that served the stoic Marcus Aurelius well. Amor fati. Love of fate.

We could let all the “what if’s” stop us from doing just about anything, when you think about it….driving a car….walking down the street….we could let our fear paralyze us into being couch potatoes who live uninspiring, non-active, mediocre lives. Lives that might actually be so bitter that we find some sort of solace in criticizing others for doing what we cannot, Or will not.

But that wasn’t Cody.

Look at all the people who admired him. Look at all the people who have been inspired to overcome whatever obstacles are in their way. Look at how he lived life. And yes, how he died.

On the water, being an inspiration, and doing something he loved.



Photos: Capital Sup Annapolis Facebook page