51-year-old paraplegic invents his own wheelchair skateboard

Erik Kondo is a 51-year-old man who lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, just a short ride outside of Boston, who has just recently gotten into skateboarding.

Kondo isn’t like most skateboarders you meet: He has been paralyzed from the chest down for more than 30 years.

“When I was younger, and still able bodied, skateboarding really wasn’t that big of a deal,” Kondo told GrindTV. “So I’m getting a late start on it. But really, the reason I started doing it was a practical matter. The opportunity wasn’t there for other wheelchair users to skateboard, so I decided to try it out.”

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The above video of Kondo planting his wheelchair atop an electric-powered skateboard and maneuvering his way through Lynch Skate Park in Boston went viral earlier this week when well known advertising professor Edward Boches of Boston University spotted him and posted a short clip of Kondo to Facebook.

In the time since, Kondo has been trying to spread the word to anyone who will listen about what he believes is the future of adaptive sports.

wheelchair skateboarding
By constantly engaging the rider’s balance, the wheelchair skateboard is a unique adaptive sport. Photo: Courtesy of Edward Boches/bochesphotography.com

“As far as I know I have the world’s only motorized skateboard that can be used for a wheelchair,” Kondo told GrindTV. “If it was up to me, I wouldn’t be the one that invented this, it would be someone younger and with more body control than I have, to help make it look cooler and get more people interested in the sport. But even if I’m the only one who ever skateboards this way, I’ll be happy because I just like doing it.”

By finding a way to successfully mount his wheelchair atop a skateboard, Kondo says his sport has created an experience that athletes with disabilities can’t really find in other sports.

“There are very few adaptive sports that are really balance-centric like this,” said Kondo. “There’s mono-skiing and surfing, and there really aren’t many others adaptive sports that focus on balance besides skateboarding right now for people in wheelchairs.

“You know, if you play adaptive basketball or wheelchair race, you’re still planted firmly on the ground and never really get to engage your balance. But on this, I get to travel sideways and control my turns left and right with how I balance my body.”

wheelchair skateboarding
Kondo says he’s had to endure tons of falls as he worked on his skateboard prototype. Photo: Courtesy of Edward Boches/bochesphotography.com

In addition to allowing for a more dynamic range of motion from Kondo, he thinks wheelchair skateboarding provides a convenience that other adaptive sports don’t, in that it can easily be integrated in his day-to-day life.

“If I’m skiing or hand cycling, I have to get out of my wheelchair and get myself onto that equipment, and if I’m going from A to B, I’m stuck without my wheelchair whenever I get where I’m going,” Kondo told GrindTV. “But with this invention I can hop onto a longboard, ride it for 10 miles, and then hop off it, pick it up and put the skateboard on my lap without ever having to get out of my wheelchair. That’s huge.”

wheelchair skateboarding
Kondo insists his wheelchair skateboard invention is the first of its kind. Photo: Courtesy of Edward Boches/bochesphotography.com

Regardless of whether Kondo’s invention catches on, he is hopeful that seeing him on a skateboard will, if nothing else, convince others to pick up skateboarding.

“To anyone sitting around saying, ‘Oh well, I can’t try skateboarding because I’m not a young kid,’ I’m like, ‘Bullshit!'” said Kondo. “You can do it, you’re just afraid to try. If a 51-year-old father of three who is a paraplegic who has never skateboarded before can do it pretty much anyone can. So my advice is, just don’t be afraid.”

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