Andrew Kurka is a paralympic mono-skier, motivational speaker, and radio DJ from Palmer, Alaska. He races and freestyle skis for the US team. His is definitely not the average skiing story. "I hurt my back when I was 13 in a four wheeler accident. My physical therapist took me skiing when I was 15. She paid for it and everything. She told me to give it a try and I did but I really wasn't too interested in it. I was a wrestler at the time and I still wanted to be a wrestler."
With the help of Challenge Alaska and his own "gung ho attitude", Andrew finally got started as a Mono-skier. Now he trains and competes in the USA and internationally, alongside professional skiers both sitting and standing.
However, the last few years of skiing have not been completely without consequence.
"Because of my 'gung-ho attitude', my career has been sprinkled with injuries. Last year I got a severe concussion and then I broke my back at the X-Games four years ago. But that's changing. I broke my femur 10 or 11 weeks ago and it changed my skiing. I decided that would be the turning point in my career. I'm not going to be so gung-ho anymore and I'm going to take my time and outsmart everyone on the course instead of going just as fast as I can. Going from 100 % to 90% I'm still just as fast. I'm in total control and I got third place podium at world championships in Panorama."
Andrew also works as a motivational speaker. He believes that living for others is better than living for oneself. "I can make a difference for people who have had serious injuries. Anything you do should have a selfless reason behind it." One of his most memorable talks was given at his little brother's middle school. His brother even got involved and dressed up in a little singlet to comment on Andrew's wrestling days.
Because of his injuries, Andrew has to sit down to ski. A mono-ski, or a sit ski, is an aluminum frame usually of snow mobile or motorcycle shock with a custom seat. It has skis called outriggers in both hands. "It's just another way of skiing," says Andrew. "It has a foot piece with skis that switch out just like anyone other ski. It has bindings just like any other ski. And you just hop in and you ski down the mountain as fast as you can!"
When asked about the most challenging skiing days, Andrew says it is whenever he gets new equipment. "My first ever world championship, my very first huge race, was in La Molina, Spain, and I just had a new mono-ski and a brand new bucket and I wasn't adapted to it. The thing with using equipment is you really have to get adapted. It's called adaptive sports for a reason. I didn't have a chance to adapt to my equipment and I went into the race runs completely unprepared and it didn't matter how well I could free ski before that, I just wasn't as ready as everyone else and I ended up crashing."
Andrew has a pretty rigorous training schedule, which he refers to as a "6-8 hour work day." He shows up at the mountain at around 7:00, skis until around 11:30 or noon, takes an hour lunch break to review video, skis again for about an hour and a half, then goes to the gym to do recovery for another hour and a half. The rest of the day is free. Andrew is currently living in Colorado and says that he doesn't spend much of his free time indoors, even after the long hours of training.
Andrew's a 100% go all out guy, and he doesn't let fear limit his life. In the summer, you can find Andrew in Austria or New Zealand, skiing in a training camp, or in Alaska fishing. He plans to ride the Sadler's Challenge, the longest, toughest handcycle race in Alaska, this July.
RELATED: Racing Chairs
RELATED: Ocean Rowing with Roz Savage
RELATED: Quests of the Turner Twins