Tyler Schilhabel is 20 years old and at the age of 16 he was paralyzed from the chest down while riding a four wheeler at Pismo Beach in California. He was an avid football player, wakeboarder, and slalom skier upon his accident and has been pursuing action sports since including slalom skiing and mono skiing. His family has owned a Tigè 24ve since 2008 and it has been an instrumental part of their lives in many aspects.
TB: Tell us about your life growing up and how you were first introduced to watersports?
TS: Growing up I have always been involved in various sports, with football being the main one. Whenever I wasn’t at practice or playing games for football, my family and I would be at the lake. We have had a boat since I was 8 and both of my parent’s families are water dogs so we virtually live on the water. I learned to slalom ski at the age of 10 and got up on my first try! Watersports, just like other sports, just comes natural to me and my siblings.
TB: Tell us about your injury. When and how did it happen, and how long before you were back on the water?
TS: In September of 2010 I was in an ATV accident at Oceano Dunes at Pismo Beach, California. I flew off a 30 foot dune which resulted in me being a T-4 paraplegic paralyzed from the chest down. Just two days before I had played the game of my life on the football field, leading my team to a victory over a team that had beat us the past two years with a combined score of 112-0. We beat them 21-19. I threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for another. The following spring I was back on the water enjoying my Tige, just 6 months post injury and that’s when I started to body surf with the board.
TB: How has being a Tige owner impacted your journey before and after your accident?
TS: Being a Tige owner has made me very happy. Before my accident the lake and boat was my release from the pressure of football. After my accident, since I didn’t have football anymore, the lake was all I wanted to do. After I turned 18 my parents were letting me take the boat out on my own with all my friends and in the summers we were making close to two lake trips a week. We have definitely gotten our money’s worth out of that boat.
TB: What are some of your favorite memories riding behind a Tige?
TS: I have a lot of great memories riding behind the Tige. One of them being when I tried barefoot skiing. I straddled a surfboard and was about 35 feet off. My dad had the cruise set at 42 mph and just hit it hard. I got up and lasted about 10 seconds before eating it hard, but it was a blast. My next best memory was when I tubed for the first time after being hurt. We were at Lake Mead and I was riding with two of my brothers. We got slung way out and just barrel rolled the tube. My legs were flying everywhere and it hurt but it was the first time I felt an adrenaline rush since my accident.
TB: If you could take your Tige anywhere, where would you go?
TS: My aunt and uncle allow my family to use their houseboat on Lake Mead so that is my favorite place to take the Tige, but if I could go anywhere else with the boat it would probably be Lake Powell or to a lake in Texas as I’ve heard they have some really nice ones. Basically anywhere with a good view and glassy water for some quality skiing.
TB: Where do you find the motivation/inspiration to overcome and adapt to everything life has thrown your way?
TS: I get the motivation and inspiration to carry on through my faith. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS, Mormon). I get asked a lot how I handle my situation and the answer is simple, I would not be as happy or carry on as well as I do if I didn’t have my faith. Along with my faith, my family and all who push me along keep me striving to be an inspiration. My story has reached people all throughout the country and I have been able to change lives because of how I reacted to my situation, so that too keeps me going.
TB: What else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
TS: My free time is spent hanging out with friends and trying to come up with any new extreme sport or even something dumb for me to try. My philosophy is: I’m already paralyzed, what worse can happen?
TB: Have any big future plans?
TS: Right now I am getting a degree in political science at Utah Valley University with plans of becoming a corporate lawyer and then teaching government/econ and coaching high school football. I also want to try to take my snow mono-skiing to the Paralympics and Mono X-Games.
TB: What are some of your most memorable moments in life this far?
TS: My most memorable moments in this life are all centered around my family, close friends and the lake. People say that money can’t buy happiness. Well, it may not be able to buy happiness, but buying our Tige has bought us some pretty great memories.
TB: Tell us more about your relationship with Coach Jim Harbaugh?
TS: When I was hurt I was life-flighted to Stanford Medical Center where I had my surgery. My brother-in-law called the athletic office at Stanford and told them I was a high school quarterback who was recently paralyzed and asked if I could get a signed football from the team. Two days later Coach Harbaugh along with Andrew Luck and Steve Wisniewksi and the other quarterbacks and running backs showed up in my room. That day Coach, Andrew and Steve promised that it wasn’t just a “hi and bye” visit and that they were in this for the long run. They have lived up to that promise. Coach attended my high school graduation and has had me come to a few games where I’ve been in the locker room before and after games as well as on the sideline. I continue to text and talk often to Coach Harbaugh and Andrew Luck almost 4 years later. They are incredible men!
TB: You and your family seem very close. How have they supported you as far as action sports and getting back on the water?
TS: My family has been my biggest support system and have constantly encouraged me to get back in the water. My older brothers have been the ones who have literally been my legs and have helped me do watersports again. Their physical strength is draw dropping when you say the stuff they have to do to help me. One such experience was just a few weeks ago at Lake Mead when I talked my brother Drew, into letting me duct tape myself to him so I could surf. He was reluctant at first, but I told him that chicks would dig the pictures haha. He loved doing it. How he did it? I don’t think I’ll ever know. His strength is beyond me.
TB: We see you using the hashtag #schilhabelstrong. What does this mean to you?
TS: The hashtag #SchilhabelStrong comes from a trend that started right after I got hurt. The whole city of Bakersfield and many others throughout the country caught onto it and it has ignited a fire within myself. So much that I have started a Non-Profit Organization to help others who are similarly affected like me. SchilhabelStrong just means to carry on and live life to the best of your ability and to be happy.
TB: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received or a favorite motto that you would say to others?
TS: My favorite motto to live by is “Come what may and love it.” This means that whatever trial you may encounter, just embrace it and love your struggle and make the best out of the card that God has dealt you.
TB: Anyone you would like to thank?
TS: I would like to thank my family for always being there. Especially my siblings who all packed up on a moments notice and traveled hours to get to me in the hospital, spending their savings and taking weeks off of work to be by my side and continue to be by my side. I’m thankful for the thousands of people I don’t even know who continue to support me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for them.