U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Adaptive Action Spor...

Adaptive Action Sports Continuing Legacy Of Growing Para Sports With Esports League

By Ryan Wilson | Nov. 03, 2020, 12:41 p.m. (ET)

Amy Purdy reviews a video of her run with her husband Daniel Gale, Executive Director and co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, during a training session on December 18, 2013 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Para snowboarders off the slopes and into their living rooms, leaving some thrill seekers reaching for a video game controller in the absence of their action sport of choice. 

In a booming video game industry, there are many esports leagues, yet a disabled esports league in the United States remains to be seen. Who better to start one than the organization that’s grown opportunities for disabled active sports athletes since 2005?

“The sky is the limit,” Daniel Gale, husband of Paralympic medalist Amy Purdy, said.

Gale and Amy co-founded Adaptive Action Sports (AAS) in 2005 in Copper Mountain, Colorado, to provide sporting opportunities for people with physical disabilities. AAS offers a range of outdoor sports, including snowboarding and skateboarding. 

In the early 2000s, Gale and Purdy noticed there weren’t at the time many avenues to find information on prosthetic feet for wakeboarding and snowboarding. They thought it might be beneficial to create a message board of sorts for folks in need of such feet, like Purdy did at the time.

Quickly, though, they saw a much wider vision of the idea take form, and the two attended a course about starting a non-profit organization. After the workshop, the teacher decided to assist Gale and Purdy through the start-up phase of their nonprofit on a pro-bono basis.

Then, Jason Lee, the star of TV sitcom “My Name is Earl,” raised $40,000 to help the cause.

“In the beginning, it was mostly about just quality of life and creating programs that we loved: snowboard, skateboard, surf, mountain bike, those kinds of things,” Gale said. “It wasn’t until a couple years in that we really saw the potential for what snowboarding could be as far as a Paralympic sport.”

AAS partnered with the Canadian Snowboard Federation and an organization in the Netherlands to “spearhead” snowboarding’s introduction into the Paralympic Games. 

Some moments, the only reason that I continue to do what I do was because of the athletes, the participants, and the lives we’ve changed.

Daniel Gale

The Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 was the first Games for snowboarding, and Purdy won the bronze medal in snowboardcross. AAS has also assisted such athletes as Paralympic gold medalist Mike Schultz, Paralympic gold medalist Evan Strong, Paralympic gold medalist Mike Minor and Paralympic medalist Keith Gabel, just to name a few. And there are more men and women working their way up the ranks. 

“Almost everybody has participated in one training or another that we have put together,” Gale said.

AAS helped lead the initiative to get adaptive skateboard into the X Games a few years ago. 

“X Games was really excited about expanding that vertical and program within the organization,” Gale said. 

Getting involved in esports has been much the same as how the organization first started: seeing a need and solving it. During stay-at-home orders earlier this year, Gale said he and many of his athletes started connecting with each other through video games. They all have Oculus game systems — for virtual-reality gaming — at home, and they played each other.

While this was a way to stay in touch with one another, Gale spotted an opportunity for AAS. He reached out to Ujesh Desai, the vice president and general manager of gaming for electronics giant Logitech. Gale met Desai, and it did not take him long to buy into the idea of creating an adaptive esports league. 

“He loved it,” Gale said.

Gale said a team of people, from such groups as Red Bull and Mount Sinai Hospital, have come together to discuss the true potential of an adaptive esports league. Gale said this league would accommodate a range of disabilities, including those who have upper-limb disabilities and visual impairments, and it is set to be unveiled in the near future.

“If it’s a driving game, you could include somebody with a lower-limb disability having to use hand controls or something like that in a race,” Gale said, referencing Logitech’s G Challenge in which gamers from across the world compete in racing games. “Ujesh is absolutely an amazing man, and he has really embraced this concept, made it not only a passion project, but a priority for him.”

He added: “For him, it’s the right thing to do, and it makes sense. It’s important. It’s people like that who shift the industry.”

While Gale focuses on expanding the adaptive esports league he created, it reflects his larger mission of assisting disabled people in Para sports. Gale said the organization has faced financial difficulty through its 15 years of being in business. He said there have been times in which he nor Purdy were paid. 

“Some moments, the only reason that I continue to do what I do was because of the athletes, the participants, and the lives we’ve changed,” Gale said.

Ryan Wilson

Ryan Wilson is a writer and independent documentary filmmaker from Champaign, Illinois. He is a contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Amy Purdy

US Paralympics