Wheels UP! Photo Contest – Honorable Mention

Brian Rowland’s wake surfing photo won the 2018 Wheels UP! Photo Contest

Online Exclusive posted Tuesday, November 6, 2018 – 10:18am

Brian Rowland’s submission for the 2018 Wheels UP! photo contest.


The Wheels UP! Photo Contest included submissions from all around the world, and one international participant really caught the judges’ eyes. Brian Rowland resides in Merrickville, Ontario, Canada which provides him with some breathtaking nature. Rowland’s photo of him wake surfing drew in the judges for honorable mention because it was appealing and gave the judges a sense of adventure that perfectly describes how to get your Wheels UP!

In his photo, Rowland is wake surfing on the Rideau River In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Rowland endured a T-12, L1 complete spinal-cord injury (SCI) in the spring of 2015 after a motocross accident. Prior to his injury, Rowland had never been surfing before. Now, after his friend found a way to make wake surfing adaptive, he goes wake surfing three to four times a week in the summer.

“My favorite thing about wake surfing is the freedom of being pushed by the waves and not relying on anything else but the water,” Rowland says. “I just focus on the water and try to take it as it comes.”

Rowland started wake surfing about on year ago after joining a water-skiing program called Ski Ability Ottawa. His friend, Chris Holden, designed a surfboard to make it adaptive for people with a disability to try wake surfing.

Wake surfing is not the only adaptive sport Rowland participates in. He has tried skiing of all disciplines, water skiing, sled hockey, wheelchair basketball, handcycling and dirt bike riding. Although he is a man of many sports, his passion lies in adaptive skiing. He is currently training to get on the national alpine skiing team with hopes to make it to the Paralympics by 2020.

“I’ve been in the gym and swimming and using my handcycle a lot and working on my core, strength and balance training,” he says.

Rowland knows the competition is tough, so when it comes to inspiration, he looks to pro athletes.

“[I look at] pro athletes and how hard they have to work to make it to the top, that’s pretty inspiring to see them compete in their sports,” he says.

He also gets his inspiration from his ski coach, Andy, who also has an SCI.

“My ski coach is one person I look to that’s really inspiring because he’s a quadriplegic and he used to race on the world cup alpine ski circuit and he’s won,” he says. “He’s now my coach for skiing and he’s taught me a lot and he’s basically my mentor and my mechanic.”

At age 32, Rowland knows that it’s never too late to go for what you love. His advice to someone who is newly injured is “stay positive and it’s possible to do anything you put your mind to regardless of what injury or disability you have. It’s possible to do anything you want and not to give up, it can be frustrating at first but if you try hard you’ll probably succeed.”


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