Let me preface this by saying that I do not, nor have I ever had a problem with people coming up to me and asking how I lost my leg. The fact that I am happy to wear shorts outside well into November should prove that it’s not something I’ve ever tried to shy away from.
However, sometimes, if I’ve already told the story that day, or I don’t want to get bogged down in the detailed back story of my heart condition, or even if I’m just feeling bored I can get a little… creative with the truth of how I became an amputee.
The Shark Wrestler
Back in 2012 I travelled to a small island in the Caribbean Sea, which must remain nameless, for the Annual Shark Wrestling World Championship (ASWWC).
It is a large event but not one much publicised, as there are many who frown upon the idea of fighting wild animals purely for sport. I can assure you however that no sharks are ever injured. The idea is to strike the shark humanely on the end of its nose, causing it to become momentarily stunned. At which point the human competitor is dragged out of the water using a safety rope tied to their waist.
To score the most points you need to stun the shark not only as quickly but also as cleanly as possible. Meaning the fewer strikes, the better.
As a strong swimmer my qualifying rounds posed no real problems and my strikes were all pretty much on target.
Aside from a small split in my ear where a tail fin whipped out at me, I sailed all the way to the semi-finals.
That was when things got a little iffy.
The shark they put out for me seemed manic, it had this look in its eyes that said it was out for blood, quite different to the usual dead mans stare that gives nothing away.
This one felt different.
My concerns were waved off by the event supervisor who insisted that it had been properly vetted, just like all the other contestants. They had found no reason why it shouldn’t be part of the competition.
So, into the water I moved, somewhat more cautiously than my previous bouts, eyes fixed firmly on the small ripple of water just above my opponents dorsal fin. It was swimming in figure of eights at the far end of the arena, calmly pacing until the moment my toes touched the surface.
It didn’t speed up, or even change its route but the attitude which it moved with became… cocky, like it was swimming with an overconfident swagger.
Still, despite my gut feeling, the glint of that gold medal shone too brightly for me to stop now. I moved further into the arena, slowly making my way towards my opponent. Eventually, the water became too deep for me to wade through so I had to begin swimming.
This really caught his attention and a moment later the shark stopped its pacing and began moving towards me.
It didn’t take long for the gap to close and as it approached I made my opening move, diving down so suddenly that the big fish swam right over the top of me. From there, I reached up and grabbed one of his fins, which propelled me up and out of the water. I hooked my arm around the dorsal, dragging myself up towards his face as he dived back below the surface.
Everything was going well and I was within reach of his snout, about to deliver the winning blow when the shark did something unusual. It leapt out of the water and flipped over, landing on its back with me underneath it.
That move winded me and before I could come round I felt an indescribable pain in my right leg. It caused me to almost pass out and as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I could hear faint shouting and feel the tug of the rope around my waist.
I woke up the next morning and discovered that my right leg was missing, all that was left was a little stump covered in bandages.
The shark had grabbed me by the leg and as the security team had strained to pull me out of the water, it had been pulling back on my leg.
Inevitably, there came a parting of the ways.
And that, my friends, is how I almost became the 2012 Shark Wrestling World Champion.
There you have it. I had to start off this series with the classic “shark attack” story. Which is really how it began, with people making jokes about a shark biting my leg off. The story grew and evolved over many years, eventually becoming what you have just read.
And if you’re thinking, “there is no way anyone actually believes these stories”, I agree. However, if a guy who clearly has a missing leg was stood in front of you telling you how he lost it, even if the story was wildly bizarre, how confident would you be to call him out on it?
Don’t worry, I always tell people the truth afterwards.
Thank you for reading folks, stay safe and be excellent to each other.