When he was 18 years old Dries Millard was involved in a car accident that left him paralysed. He was a promising junior rugby player, having played at provincial age-group level for three years straight, and that year being selected for the SA u/18 team. He’d also just signed his first major contract to play for North West University.
“I picked myself up and tried out new sporting avenues,” he explains. “But the sad truth was that using the 18% bodily function that remained left it impossible to maintain the high standards I upheld for myself all my life,” he says.
“Everything becomes a challenge living life in a wheelchair. The smallest things became the biggest problems. Not having access to a great many places really opened up my eyes and I realised that if I were not able to find a platform where I can train and exercise without limits I would, simply put, go insane,” he says.
Surfing always was just a hobby for Millard. “The ocean was a place neutral of expectations, a place that challenged without any regard, a place that if you weren’t aware of exactly everything around you, might just claim you.” Millard thought surfing too was out of bounds for him after the accident, until he saw a video of another paraplegic surfing giant waves at Mavericks in Northern California.
“That just blew my mind away. In an instant my world expanded. The ocean called me even more, that burning desire to push myself burned again as I decided to pursue surfing.”