PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The victim of a local car crash is turning his tragedy into an opportunity.
Austin Hopper grew up on waterways around the the Tampa Bay area.
“Since I was in diapers, basically, I’ve been on a boat,” he said. “Born and raised on the water.”
After a motorcycle accident at 23 years old, Hopper said watersports were no longer an option.
“A lady on her phone basically hit me, put me in the hospital, [I] came out paralyzed,” he explained.
According to Hopper, he spent years in rehab, relearning certain skills. He had one goal on his mind.
“I’ve got to get back out on the water. Knowing I can’t do it by myself anymore, I’ve tried to innovate the watersports so I can do it myself,” Hopper said.
The finished product is the “Matau.” It’s a crossover between a canoe, kayak and paddle board that can accommodate his wheelchair.
“I basically was working in the dirt in my backyard, hand shaping it, fiber-glassing it, cutting it down, redesigning it,” he said. “I kind of innovated three or four different things into one.”
Now, Hopper builds and sells his creation through his business Suncoast Skiff. His product is for everyone but comes with a special message for those who find themselves in a wheelchair.
“I want to let them know, and see, that their life’s not over. Get outdoors and, basically, take advantage of the rest of the life they’re given,” he said.
You can find more information about the Matau on the Suncoast Skiff website.