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The Man Who Surfs Mavericks With One Arm

While repairing a piece of equipment on a ship in the middle of the Bering Sea, Jeff Denholm slipped when the ship listed in a heaving storm and caught his arm in an open drive shaft turning at 2,500 RPM. 21 hours later, Jeff was on an operating room table, getting his right arm amputated. But like so many adventure-minded folk whose lives take a traumatic turn, Jeff threw himself at his new life with an unreal amount of energy. He moved to Capitola, California–which Denhold selected for its proximity to the coast as well as to Squaw Valley–and became strong, proficient, and confident enough to surf Northern California's biggest wave–Mavericks. "Surfing's not the sport I'm best at, but it's become important to me because it's the hardest." 

On the theme of difficulty, Denholm opted to test himself at the legendary Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race, Hawaii's ultimate test for watermen. Denholm paddled 16 miles before his prosthetic arm become undone, completing the final 17 miles with just his left arm. No adjectives, and nor any adverbs, are need to describe what a feat that is.

 In his professional life, Denholm made his living leasing heavy equipment to wildfire fighting crews, but in more recent years started a company with a little help from Patagonia called Atira Systems, which make non-toxic flame retardant for fighting fires. 

About The Author

stash member Ryan Dunfee

Former Managing Editor at Teton Gravity Research, current Senior Contributor, current professional hippy at the Sierra Club, and avid weekend recreationalist.