Inspiring Everyone At Hanalei Bay

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - September 28, 2011
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Cameron Clapp was shredding at Hanalei Bay. Terry Lilley photo

Beautiful Hanalei Bay has lured some of the best surfers and wave riders in the world to Kaua’i. Professionals, amateurs, locals and visitors have long enjoyed the fantastic rides the bay has to offer. When conditions are right, it is one of the finest breaks in Hawaii.

Recently an inspirational wave-rider was turning heads at Hanalei. Local residents were blown away by his style and grace. Visitors on the beach were awed by his focus and drive, and everyone else was touched by his life story.

Cameron Clapp is a triple amputee. His life changed Sept. 15, 2001, four days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Clapp was hit by a train in California and lost three limbs: one arm and both legs above the knee.

“Remarkably, my head and body escaped the accident with hardly a scratch,” he says. “For that I am very grateful.”

At the time he was only 15. Clapp’s survival is the opening chapter of his phenomenal life story: a young man who was determined to continue to live life to the fullest. His positive attitude and the unconditional support of family and friends have allowed him to accomplish the unthinkable.

Since Clapp’s accident in 2001, he has learned to run, swim, golf, snow board, cycle, bodysurf and even surf. When he’s not competing in sports, he explores his love for the arts and music. He knows his life journey is inspiring others with disabilities to live life with no limitations.

“I found I possessed a determination that I never realized I had before that fateful day,” he says. “I found myself determined to make the most of my life despite the obvious challenges. It is very hard to go through life missing three limbs, very hard, but it gets a little easier every day. I would never give up, that’s just not me.”

Hanalei’s Terry Lilley has seen that determination up close. Lilley has videotaped and snapped photos of hundreds of surfers in the bay before, but acknowledged this surf session was very different.

“It is not about the biggest wave or the front cover of Surfer magazine that counts,” says Lilley. “It is about your own personal relationship with the sea and connecting with nature. This guy does it both, and I hope to have his story on the Discovery Channel soon so others can share in his enthusiasm about life.”

Lilley says Clapp’s parents live on Kaua’i, adding that his smile was contagious out in the lineup and his personality simply gravitating.

“He paddles and stands up all on his own and he can turn and ride the waves quite well,” Lilley says with excitement. “He rips, and he has more of the aloha spirit than I have seen in a surfer in a long time!”

Clapp says good things come from tragic situations. He says he’s met many incredible people and has participated in athletic events he didn’t even know existed before his accident. He hopes by sharing his experiences with others, he will inspire people to pursue and achieve their goals regardless of the challenges they face.

“I’m thankful I’m here today, alive and participating in disabled athletic events,” he says. “It’s a way of showing America, and just people in general, how much you can do.”

According to Lilley and those lucky enough to be in the lineup that day at Hanalei, he’s accomplishing his mission and so much more.

“It is all about making better choices,” says Lilley. “Cam is the most positive, stoked surfer I have ever met!”

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