Brad Johnson Interview
Brad Johnson is a T-12 paraplegic athlete who is living his dream of being a sponsored rider. His story is inspirational, and we reached out to him to find out more about his story, and how he manages to keep on shreddin’ hard.
“Hi there Mountain Sledder! For those who don’t know about me, I am 27 years old and originally from Eugene, Oregon. I lived there until I was six years old when my family decided to move to the great state of Alaska. I have lived in Palmer, Alaska ever since. I love it here! I live 10 minutes away from a gas station, then it’s just another 10 minutes drive to some of the best riding the state has to offer.
I have known from a young age what I wanted to do with my life, and I have always done whatever it took to be out at the track racing motocross, or up in the mountains riding sleds. On February 4th 2012 I was filming in Hatchers Pass, AK getting footage to market myself to production companies, when I jumped off a rock cliff landing so hard that I broke my back, leaving me paralyzed from the waist down. My life changed forever from that day on. Doctors told me I would never be able to ride again, and definately never walk again.
It has been three years now and I am extremely happy to say I walk fulltime using locking leg braces and forearm crutches, and I ride sleds at minimum 2 days a week, all winter long. My goals today are about the same as they ever were but now in addition I want to inspire other people with adversity in their lives to not give up. And I am still working to fulfill my main goal of being a professional backcountry snowmobile athlete.”
Mountain Sledder: Brad, what kind of leg braces do you use to walk with?
Brad: My leg braces don’t have a brand name, they are a custom fit to my legs. If you want to get a set, they need to be fitted by a custom orthotics doctor. They are full KFO locking leg braces made from titanium and plastic, and they work awesome for me.
MS: With your paralysis, what is the thing you find hardest to do, be it on or off your sled?
Brad: Given what I do, day in and out, living with paralysis this might sound crazy. But the hardest thing for me is not unloading or loading my sled but actually carrying my gear bag to and from my truck. That and walking on ice seem to be still the hardest things for me to deal with. My solution for this issue is to ask friends for help! I absolutely have to rely on my friends now more than ever.
MS: How has your riding adapted to your injury?
Brad: Since getting paralyzed and spending a lot of time in the backcountry with a disability, I absolutely have learned what to watch out for and how to plan my lines around it. For instance when I am on a big downhill descent or climbing a big mountain, I really try to not get overexposed for two reasons. One, if something happens up there I will need assistance from friends so that means I’m not only putting myself at risk but my friends too. Two, if I did get into a situation where I had no choice but to go off a drop, I really can’t take that hard of a landing anymore not having the use of my legs.
MS: Have you noticed that your attitude or your perception of risk has changed, or a shift in what you consider to be a reasonable amount of risk?
Brad: Yes, the way that I decide what risks I am willing to take has changed drastically. When I got hurt, I spent an entire month in the hospital. During my stay there, it snowed the whole month then went bluebird. Trust me, not being able to go ride was far worse for me to deal with than losing the use of my legs! Now I’m very careful, and even though I still do radical stuff on my sled, I weigh the risks out way more, and put a lot of thought into every move I make.
MS: Has your preference on what kind of riding you like to do changed at all since your injury?
Brad: I would say yes, but not that much though. Before I got hurt, I had no problem going out and shoveling a wedge and hitting a jump all day, or finding big drops to hit. Now I could care less about jumping sleds. I look for sidehill lines or chutes to climb. My focus now is more on riding technical and tight stuff. My favorite thing to do is find something steep enough to do blunt stalls on!
MS: What modifications have you done to your sled to adapt it to your sit down riding style?
Brad: So I ride a pretty much stock 2015 Ski-Doo Summit T3 174. I haven’t done much to it to make it para-worthy. I’ve bolted on a set of skis from Curve Industries. I also put on a 2” lower riser, and replaced the stock handlebars with a set of Brett Turcotte signature series Cheetah Factory Racing bars. Installed a custom wrap from www.sledwraps.com. I put a GGB can on it thanks to Nix Nuvo. And finally, I had a 6” taller seat custom made to get me up a little higher and give me a bit more cushion.
MS: What gear do you use?
Brad: Staying dry and warm is a big deal when you can’t feel your legs getting cold or wet. I choose to wear Strikt Gear, which is a Canadian made outerwear brand of super high quality stuff. I wear a 509 helmet and goggle setup, and last but not least, a Highmark by Snowpulse avalanche airbag. I couldn’t be happier with this setup!
Thanks Brad for the interview. You’re an inspiration to us all to get out and ride regardless of the circumstances. Keep ripping!
These companies support Brad and his goal to keep on shredding: Team CC, OFT Racing, Blown Motor, Strikt Gear, Highmark by Snowpulse, Sledwraps.com, The Rider Scope, NW Sledder.