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SOCHI 2014

Evan Strong: Living Off The Land

By Lisa Costantini | July 10, 2013, 8 p.m. (ET)
Evan Strong skateboarding as a child
Paralympic hopeful Evan Strong posing with his snowboard during a
photo shoot in West Hollywood, Calif.
Evan Strong showing off his skateboarding skills during a photo
shoot in West Hollywood, Calif.

When Evan Strong was hit by an SUV traveling at 65 mph and thrown from his motorcycle at age 17, he came to a crossroads in his life.

“Before my accident I was a professional skateboarder who was traveling around doing contests and demos for my sponsors,” said Strong, who is now a Paralympic snowboarding hopeful.

But after his left leg was amputated, his life was suddenly faced with new challenges. “Do I take the road where I get depressed and let the accident get the best of me, or do I say yes to life and keep trying to do things I love?” he wondered.

Thankfully the answer was the latter, and in seeking it he also found a new love — his passion for snowboarding.

“When you’re given a second chance to live, it gives you a very powerful perspective,” he said. “Growing up I was always single-minded, I only wanted to skateboard. I really didn’t do anything else. But when I started to get my mobility back after my accident, I wanted to do anything and everything — just because I could.”

One thing that was on that list was snowboarding. “As someone who grew up in Hawaii, I never got to snowboard,” he said. “But I started thinking — I bet I would love it. So I decided to move to Lake Tahoe to learn how to snowboard just so I could experience that. I got a job at a ski resort and got to ride 100 days my first year. I fell in love with it.”

Something else Strong loves is nature, and it is the reason why he and his wife decided to build a yurt to live in. The structure, he said, is like “living in a giant tent. It’s a circular structure that brings the same experience as camping, except we have running water, a wood stove and a bathroom.”

“This is the first yurt that we’ve built, but we’ve spent time in them before,” he said. “Three years ago we honeymooned in Maui and slept on a cliff in a yurt. It was so great waking up with the sun, going on the deck of the yurt and being able to see the ocean. Ever since then we’ve wanted to live in a structure like that.”

The reason why it’s his favorite structure to reside in is because “it makes me feel closer to nature. The walls are made of canvas, so there isn’t a big separation between you and the outside. When the sun comes up, you can see the light coming through the walls. You can hear the wind and the trees. And I have a lot of wild turkeys and deer around my house so I can hear and see the creatures that live in my environment.”

But those aren’t the only animals you’ll find around the Strong household.

“My wife and I have two-dozen chickens, which actually lay blue eggs,” he said. Living off the land is something the 26-year-old grew up doing. “My dad grew a farm in Connecticut and my mom’s mother was really into organic healthy eating. As long as I can remember my diet has always been about organic whole foods.”

But he says it wasn’t until after his accident that he took that lifestyle to a whole new level — and turned it into a business. “After my accident I got really into the raw food movement that’s been happening, and found that by eating those super foods it gave me a lot of energy and was helping me to recover quicker.” Strong then felt compelled to share what he had learned with other people, and decided to open an organic vegetarian restaurant. With the help of his wife and two sisters he started The Fix in Nevada City, Calif. almost four years ago.

As someone who “grew up in this world of healthy eating,” the pro snowboarder offers three tips for anyone wanting to make the switch to a more organic lifestyle:

1) He believes that a big reason why people don’t bring organic food into their diet is because it’s too expensive, and they feel as if they’re not really getting anything from it. But he said what you don’t realize is you’re getting more nutrition. “Organic food has around 40-50 times more vitamins, minerals and enzymes than conventionally grown food — and I’ve found that to be very crucial, especially for an elite athlete.” One way you can cut down on the cost, he said, is to start your own garden. “Go to a nursery where they sell plants and ask about fruits and vegetables that grow well in your area. Or if you don’t have a lot of space, do a windowsill planter box; plant thyme, oregano, and basil. Grow all the fun culinary spices like herbs and Italian spices that are really medicinal and high in nutrients and antioxidants.”

2) “Find out where your local farmers’ market is. The great thing about them is you’re going to find things that are fresh and haven’t been shipped halfway around the world. You’ll be getting it directly from your local farmer.”

3) “Try to incorporate something fresh into every meal of the day. Generally people who shop the perimeter of the grocery store are healthier than the people who shop the center aisles. So find your favorite fruits and vegetables that you’re excited to eat and add them.”

Strong said he was back on his skateboard within two years of his fateful accident.

“I told myself if I could get one percent of my skateboarding abilities back I would feel accomplished,” he said. “And after I got it I was super excited — and immediately set another goal for myself.”

To this day, he said, it’s just been a progression of setting goals and achieving them. “Now I’m the current world champion in snowboardcross [and I hope to be] representing my country at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi (where snowboarding will make its Paralympic debut) — and I’m a hopeful for gold. So achieving small goals can lead to the biggest thing in the world.”

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