Blind 65-year-old shooting survivor prepares to wow crowds at Winter Haven wakeboarding championship

Polk County

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – A 65-year old Navy veteran wants to add “first place winner” to an already incredible list of accomplishments.

Scott Leason is a wakeboarder. He’s also blind, after a cruel Independence Day twist of fate in 1993.

He was working the overnight shift at a California gas station.

“I’m serving a customer at the counter and two gang members burst in the store,” he said.

After one robber secured the drawer full of cash, Leason said, he remembers seeing a white flash.

“The 9mm entered here,” as he pointed to the left side of his head. “Exited my right socket. I still have a chip on the orbital bone here.”

Leason now has two prosthetic eyes and cannot smell.

In the decades since his near-death experience, Leason decided to get into extreme water sports.

He’s been wakeboarding since 2018.

“When I’m wakeboarding, I’m just a wakeboard dude. I’m no longer blind. I’m free out there. I’m free because it’s just me at the end of the line,” he said.

He’s competing in the upcoming 2021 Nautique World Wake Association National Championships on Lake Silver in Winter Haven, in the adaptive category.

“My goal is to pull four 180s off every edge,” he said.

It’s his third time competing.

“I want to come in first,” said Leason.

Without his vision, he uses the feel of the wake to time out his tricks. His motto: never lose sight of your goals and dreams.

Organizers say he’s the first blind wakeboarder to compete.

“To make a stance to say ‘I’m not gonna let this stop me.’ It just blows my mind. His attitude is – he’s not angry at anybody. He’s always smiling. He’s always happy to be here. He’s a great individual,” said Shannon Starling, founder and president of the World Wake Association.

Leason will compete next Wednesday and Friday afternoons on Lake Silver.

To learn more about the competition, visit the official Polk County “Week of Wake” website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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