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JohnnyV

Cocoa Beach surfer still rides the waves

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After losing a leg, Cocoa Beach surfer still rides the waves

Sunday, September 8, 2002

By BILL GAINES, Florida Today of Melbourne

An AP Member Exchange

COCOA BEACH — Geoffrey Comfort understands what kidney transplant recipients must endure when waging the life-or-death fight against the disease.

It's not just because the 46-year-old Comfort treats kidney patients as an echocardiologist and ultrasound technician at the West Palm Beach Veterans Administration Hospital.

Comfort, who competed in the masters longboard division at the 17th annual National Kidney Foundation Surfing Festival, has overcome and mastered his own disability.

Comfort lost his right leg just below the knee at 21 when the motorcycle he was riding was struck broadside by a car. Fully conscious at the time, the horror was evident immediately to the then-Florida Institute of Technology student.

"I turned over on my back and did a visual inspection of myself," said Comfort, who at the time was working a summer job as a lifeguard in New Jersey. "I looked down at my right leg and couldn't find it."

He finally spotted it only a few feet away, but doctors at the hospital were unable to reattach it.

To many, the thought of losing a limb is unimaginable. To Comfort, who had finished second in his division at the Ocean Pacific Fort Pierce contest only a few months earlier, it was reality.

"I had a good support system from my parents and a good relationship with the Lord," said Comfort, whose father and two brothers are pastors. "That's what got me through."

It didn't take long for Comfort to climb back on a board. The problem was staying on it.

"It took me about a year-and-a-half to get my balance and find the sweet spot on the board," said Comfort, whose father, Earl, teamed with Ron Jon DiMenna in the late 1950s and constructed one of the first surfboards in the area.

"For the first year, I was trying to do too much. I'd go out in head-high surf and get dumped, everybody would stay away from me because I was always falling off and the board would go flying."

After experimenting with various prosthetic devices, Comfort built his own out of Kevlar, graphite and titanium. With a synthetic rubber base similar to the sole on a boat shoe, Comfort found he could hop up and stay on the board.

Despite overcoming his disability, Comfort doesn't like tooting his own horn. He's been asked by East Coast legend Peter Pan to enter a contest later this month at Cape Hatteras, but Comfort hasn't made up his mind about doing it — yet.

Comfort said the Eastern Surfing Association recently added a division for amputees.

"It's enough to compete against guys with two legs," said Comfort, who recently married and is the father of three. "I love surfing and it's a hobby. These guys want to make a big deal out of it, but if I can help other amputees by doing it, then I'll do it."

There have been a few times when Comfort has had to endure a few bumps in the sand. Such was the case one recent Saturday when his prosthetic leg broke while he was surfing. Aware of the problem, Comfort made it back to shore and was walking back to where his wife Christine was sitting when it happened.

"I went down like a sack of potatoes," said Comfort, who was carrying his longboard. "Everybody gets real afraid, but you get used to it."

He's lost two of his prosthetic limbs while surfing. One $6,000 device he never saw again. The other was recovered more than a year after it disappeared in the saltwater off Fort Pierce.

"A diver found it 18 miles south of where I lost it in 32 feet of water," Comfort said. "There were barnacles all over the foot. He said it was just rolling around on the bottom. He called me at the hospital and I went over there and got it. I wore it in the Easter event here last year."

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:D ITS GREAT TO HEAR SO MANY SUCCESS STORIES!

THEY JUST GIVE ME ALL THE MORE REASON TO KEEP PUSHING MY SLIGHTLY ALTERED LIFE DREAMS!

:rolleyes: I TOO HOPE TO MAKE THIS PAGE IN THE FUTURE, TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR AN ACCOMPLISHMENT!

(WOULD ALSO LIKE TO GET INTO A BIT OF SURFING NEXT SUMMER!) :lol:

KEEP IT UP EVERYONE! :P

HOPE TO BE HERE SOON.... :D :unsure::wub::huh::wacko:

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ITS GREAT TO HEAR SO MANY SUCCESS STORIES!

THEY JUST GIVE ME ALL THE MORE REASON TO KEEP PUSHING MY SLIGHTLY ALTERED LIFE DREAMS!

I TOO HOPE TO MAKE THIS PAGE IN THE FUTURE, TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR AN ACCOMPLISHMENT! 

(WOULD ALSO LIKE TO GET INTO A BIT OF SURFING NEXT SUMMER!)

KEEP IT UP EVERYONE!

Niki,

I am so glad to see that you are being inspred by these success stories.

You have already made this page and are being recognized for your accomplishments. Just keep on keeping on. Surfs up.

Aloha :rolleyes:

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