— Infos.fr (@_infos) September 29, 2016
Eric Dargent was surfing on the west side of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean in an area previously considered safe when the unthinkable happened. A shark savagely attacked him.
"My leg was ripped off in a few seconds," Dargent, a Frenchman and avid surfer, told Agence France-Presse. "I didn't realize it right away. Luckily I wasn't far from shore."
With his left leg amputated high above the knee, experts advised him to find another sport. But with a dogged determination, Dargent set his sights on finding a way back onto his surfboard and seeking "revenge," according to Agence France-Presse.
"Just a few days after the accident I already wanted to get back on a surfboard," he said.
Dargent teamed with snowboarding amputee Patrice Barattero and an orthopaedic specialist and invented a prosthetic knee specifically designed to adapt to their respective sports.
The knee, resistant to seawater and cold temperatures, has a hydraulic shock absorber that is used in mountain bikes, allowing Dargent the flexibility to carve a wave.
"A lot of things are different, but at the same time there are parallels with an able-bodied person," he told AFP. "There's this motivation, this energy, this revenge.
"The pleasure is there. It's maybe even greater. I forget about my handicap when I'm in the water."
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) September 29, 2016
Last year, four years after the shark attack, Dargent used the artificial knee to win France's inaugural adaptive surfing championship, and he took fifth in the world championships in California.
Next month, Dargent will defend his adaptive surfing title in Biarritz near Saint-Jean-de-Luz and then will compete in the world championships. After that he plans to shoot a film on adaptive surfing.
The prosthesis Dargent developed has been perfected by Proteor, a French company that began marketing it a few months ago for $3,400. That's quite a bit cheaper than some sports prostheses, which can run as high as $9,000.
Dargent, who quit his job as a nurse and is now promoting sports for the handicapped, is hopeful the Paralympics will follow the lead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020 and add adaptive surfing, too.
"At least we maybe will have paved the way," he told AFP.
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