Danny is a good friend of ours. We have known him since 2015, when he came to make his own handplane with us and, since then, we have stayed in contact and have witnessed part of his incredible journey from stroke survivor to bodysurfing titan!
He is currently raising money for stroke survivors, with the intention of supporting them to use water time as part of the recovery process. As part of the money raising he will be running/walking from Newquay to Sennen from 30th April to 2nd of May, we will be cheering him on when he reaches Porthtowan, come on Danny!
You can read his inspirational story below, and check out his crowd funding page here. You can also find out more and track his progress here.
Danny At The Wall
‘My first Otter encounter was in the summer 2015. I live and work just a few miles from the Otter workshop and so had found myself many a time “dropping in” to admire the beautiful wooden boards. My bezzie mate Richie and I were lucky enough to receive a voucher from loved ones for an Otter handplane workshop. It was a memorable day full of tea, smiles, banter and shavings. At the end of the day we all had our own handshaped plane ready for launching into a Porthtowan lowtide whomp fest.
As the years drifted by and my family grew, I still got into the ocean regularly, but in all honesty I still favoured my surfboard for most of my water time and never properly immersed myself into the prone world until late in 2019 when my life changed BIG time.
The short version of what happened to me is:- 1x Adrenal Gland tumour (Pheochromocytoma), 1x fractured and dislocated shoulder, 2x days surgery, multiple strokes and 10x days fighting for my life in an Oxford Intensive Care Unit. At 44 years of age, a husband, father of young twins and keen surfer of 25 years… I was not expecting this! However, my consultant in Oxford was very sure that I had “dodged this bullet” due to my youth and level of surf fitness.
Photo by Sarah Bunt
My recovery since January has been full of ups and downs and I’m always learning about my new normal. The multiple strokes have left the biggest scars and no one can “see” them, which presents me daily with lots of challenges. It’s a double edged sword really, because I work extra hard at hiding them from the world, but I’m cool with that.
Due to tearing a vein in my neck during one of my seizures caused by the tumour, I have not been allowed to return to surfing (understandably). The last time I surfed was with friends at the Bristol Wave in October 2019 and unfortunately this is where I suffered my first stroke. Not being able to surf is probably my most “painful” scar. In summer 2020 I was given the thumbs up to return to swimming and light exercise. With help from my wife and children I donned my wetsuit and got back in the sea and I noticed instantly how this “medicine” improved my mood and lust for life. Soon after, I dusted off my fins and Otter handplane and concentrated on my shoulder, core strength and mental health recovery. I felt… and still do… a huge rush of hope and positive energy whilst being immersed in the ocean and have focussed my recovery around it.
It was during these beach sessions that I also noticed how as a family unit, we all responded really positively. I was able to progress my recovery well and found I was re-bonding with my children so much easier through our trips to the local beach. Medicine for all!
Photo by Sarah Bunt
I have many more hurdles to jump and although I still grieve for my old normal, I am much happier now with my new self. I try and follow a “glass half full” attitude and want to find a way of helping others that may find themselves going through a life changing event. I’m currently reading the Ted Deerhurst story by Andy Martin – “Surf, sweat and tears” and a quote in there really hit me “To gain, one has to be willing to give.” (See footer for further information).
The Otter handplane currently gets wet 2-3 times a week and this activity is pushing my recovery, fitness, mental health, family bonds, self confidence, independence and social interactions more positively than anything else I’ve experienced before. I recently visited the Otter workshop to thank James personally for our shared love of wood and at how a friendship formed 6 years ago is still going strong and getting wetter and better!
In the spirit of Ted Deerhurst, I have created a website to promote life after a stroke and have teamed up with Coastal Crusaders CIC to help other stroke survivors enjoy the ocean. I will be raising funds by running from Newquay to Sennen Cove over the May Bank holiday weekend.’