"There's been plenty of times I thought I'd never be active after my accident"
When Sean Reyngoudt lost his leg at age 19, he never imagined the tragedy would result in his becoming a professional extreme sports athlete.
Today, he is the world’s only professional amputee kiteboarder and wakeboarder.
Reyngoudt emigrated from Switzerland to Summerland Key with his family when he was a year old. Growing up as a Keys kid, he spent his life on the water spear-fishing, wake boarding, surfing and diving frequently. Reyngoudt was diving and spear-fishing before he was walking again, after the accident.
A natural athlete, he attended Key West High School and ran track and cross-country, breaking two school records for the mile and 800-meter races. He was unsure about whether he wanted to go away for college, so he took a job at a local fish market.
In 2003, Reyngoudt lost his left leg below the knee in a forklift accident while working at a local seafood market. Following the accident he spent 13 days in the hospital and about 10 months on crutches.
His frustrations and struggles continued for about a year while he battled with his insurance company to get a proper prosthesis. In that year, his friends and family were by his side encouraging him to become the active person he had been before the accident.
Like a true Keys boy, he took to the water. He was left on crutches until his mother called “Help Me Howard,” a recurring segment on a South Florida television news program that addresses injustices faced by local residents. After being contacted by the news station, Reyngoudt’s insurance company agreed to pay for the latest prosthetic technology at Arthur Finnieston Prosthetics + Orthotics. Within three hours, he literally ran out of the company’s office.
In 2006 Reyngoudt hit the competitive wakeboarding scene with a big splash, taking home first place at the inaugural Extremity Games, a title he held for seven consecutive years. Just six months after his first competition he was introduced by friends to kiteboarding, and has been hooked ever since.
Reyngoudt particularly enjoys long-distance kiteboarding competitions. One of his proudest wins was the Kitetricity Kiteboarding 2009 Central Florida Open Ocean DownWinder, a 60-mile race from Cocoa Beach to Vero Beach that he completed in two hours and 18 minutes.
As well as his own triumphs, he’s introducing kiteboarding to millions of able-bodied and amputee thrill-seekers across the country as the co-host of Discovery HD Theater’s “Catchin Air,” the first cable television series dedicated to the sport of kiteboarding. The show’s first episode was filmed in the Keys.
Reyngoudt’s past year has included a whirlwind of travel for competitions, filming for his television show and, most notably, work with other amputees. He frequently speaks at prosthetic conferences on behalf of his sponsors, sharing his story with doctors and amputees across the nation.
In December 2017 Sean returned to his third year of the Stance International Surfing Association (ISA) Adaptive Surfing Competition, placing 9th worldwide and 5th worldwide for below the knee (BK) amputees.
With more on the way for the world of competitive adaptive surfing, Sean has kept up, pushing for more one wave at a time.