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Missing leg no problem for pro kiteboarder

By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
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Unstoppable kite boarder
  • Sean Reyngoudt is a professional kiteboarder, which includes dangerous stunts
  • He learned the sport after losing his leg in an accident
  • Before his accident, Reyngoudt played football, baseball, soccer and ran track
  • Reyngoudt: "Live life every day as you can and enjoy it"

(CNN) -- Professional kiteboarder Sean Reyngoudt is unique -- and it is not just the dangerous stunts he performs that set him apart.

"I'll be out there doing all my tricks and everything -- having a good time and then I come in to the beach and people realize that I'm missing my leg and they are totally shocked by it," says Reyngoudt.

Reyngoudt, 27, is an amputee. About eight years ago, he fell off a forklift and the accident caused him to lose his left leg just below the knee. Before the accident, Reyngoudt had played football, baseball, soccer and ran track for his high school team.

His mother Esthi Reyngoudt was devastated when she saw her son after the surgery.

"I just saw my kid without a leg and thought that he would sit around on the couch and he wouldn't be able to do anything anymore," she said. That thought did not last long, since her son was back in the water swimming before he was even fitted for his prosthesis.

"When I first got my prosthesis, that made a huge difference," says Reyngoudt, "I was running out of their office."

He hasn't stopped running since. It was soon after when Reyngoudt took up extreme sports like kiteboarding and wakeboarding. His dedication and perseverance had Reyngoudt exceeding all expectation and his talent landed him a spot on the Best Kiteboarding Team.

He now competes solo.

Fellow professional kiteboarder Matt Sexton agrees that it is Reyngoudt's abilities and not his unique status as the only professional amputee that earns him respect. "He's beaten us a lot of times in races and freestyle stuff," says Sexton.

"It's motivating for us as much as it is for people sharing the same problems as his."

Reyngoudt says he doesn't view his amputation as a problem. He says he looks at it as more of a challenge -- one that he appears to have overcome. "We actually have a poster of Sean up in the shop, riding," says Mike Walsh, owner of Otherside Boardsports a sponsor of Reyngoudt. "Unless you look close, it's just a sick picture of a kiteboarder doing a nice trick."

Walsh didn't look close when he first met Reyngoudt. He says Reyngoudt must have been wearing long pants when he first started coming into his shop because it took months until Walsh noticed his leg. It was Reyngoudt's talent that Walsh first noticed. "It is a disability, but I don't think he's by any means disabled."

"I don't have a disabled parking sticker on my car, I enjoy walking far away from the store," Reyngoudt says. "It doesn't bother me."

Referring to him as disabled doesn't bother him either, says Reyngoudt.

"I think what every amputee should do is to just take full advantage of what you have. And live life every day as you can and enjoy it."

Reyngoudt and his friends enjoy spending every minute they can out on the water where he isn't treated any different. Walsh says, "It just takes an extra minute to get ready, but other than that, he's just one of the boys."

Getting treated like and acting like one of the boys is exactly what his mother hoped for after her son's accident. Offering advice to other families of amputees, Esthi Reyngoudt says, "You got to encourage them to get up every day and do what they did before and not give up. Because it's not the end of the world. It's your attitude that keeps you going."

It's Reyngoudt's attitude that has put him in the unique position of being the only professional kiteboarder that happens to be an amputee.

"He's an excellent ambassador for the sport," and that has nothing to do with his leg, says Walsh, and everything to do with "his personality, his perseverance, his commitment, his loyalty."