Need some mega motivation for your Monday? We introduce you to Bob Coomber, #1 wheelchair hiker. This writer, nature enthusiast, and San Francisco Bay Area hiker has reached heights that some of us have never dared to imagine. Bob's perseverance and can-do attitude pushes him to try (then try again), until he succeeds. Bob is an inspiration to all of us here at AXIS Dance Company.
AXIS: Tell us a little bit about yourself, including your disability and career accomplishments?
Bob: I'm a lifelong SF Bay Area resident who became diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 19. That illness caused bone weakness which led to several catastrophic broken legs in the late 80's - early 90's. I don't bear weight without breaking something, hence my chair. I own a number of "firsts" as a hiker and summit - seeker: first chair up Mt. Diablo. First chair to cross the 32 mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail (2006). First chair to summit California's 3rd highest peak, White Mountain (14,250'). And there are more to come!
What is that inspired you to become the #1 wheelchair hiker?
I don't think I set that as a goal, but I had a rule - don't stop pushing forward if the chair's still moving! I don't give up easily on difficult trails or daunting peaks. I'm having too much fun to slow down.
What is the main piece of advice you would like to share with the world about living in the world with a disability?
Oh, that's easy - don't say "I can't do this" until you try, adapt, and try again...and again. Most of my difficult climbs haven't been achieved until the 3rd or 4th time trying. Each time I go, I incorporate something I learned the last trip up.
I know you are also an accomplished writer. What inspires you to create?
Words are like paint - I get to create a picture, inspire emotions and energy simply by choosing different and unique ways of seeing something. I love words, and love expressing myself this way. One day, if my short attention span will permit, I'll actually finish a book or two.
What draws you to explore the outdoors?
Nature and I have had a long, loving relationship since I was a small child, thanks to my parents. After my diabetes and subsequent mobility problems appeared, I had to find some really novel ways to get to see the things I had always enjoyed most. Hey, who else do you know that WANTS to see bears when out in the back country? I love wildflowers, birds, all the critters and interesting ways they manage to survive.
Lastly, could you explain a little bit about your demos at the Ability expo and how you change people's lives?
I hope that by demonstrating that a hiker's needs, whether able bodied or in a chair, are exactly the same - we all need water, the right clothing, a way to set up shelter if something breaks down. I point out that a good hike doesn't have to be 100 miles from something - sometimes the best days are mere yards from my car if we take the time to look around, listen, and soak in all those good things. I want everyone to know what a healing, nurturing place being out in nature can be, and my wish is that by seeing my show, a person might come away with some ideas about their own abilities to enjoy the outdoors.