SAN DIEGO – Michael Spivey has represented the U.S. in a couple of ways, first as an active duty Marine and then as a snowboarder in the Paralympics. The wounds of his first endeavor opened the door for a chance at his second — and now he shreds with some of the best in the world.
The injuries came in late 2010 when Spivey was serving as a Marine combat engineer. About two months into a tour in Afghanistan, an improvised explosive device hit near him, landing him in a local hospital.
The result left Spivey missing a hand, deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other.
“I have PTSD (and) three fused vertebrae,” he said. “I’m missing two baseball-sized chunks on either side of my spine. On the back of this leg, at one point, you could shove your whole hand in there, almost like a bowling ball all the way up to the palm.”
Physically, he recovered within a year. Mentally, the recovery time took a little longer, roughly about four years, he said.
“Sitting on the couch, staring at the wall and decided I needed to make a change”, Spivey said.
In 2014, he drove to Utah for the winter and decided to take up snowboarding. It’s an activity he said he’d only done a couple of times before.
“I’m either going to freeze to death in my truck, or I’m going to figure this out,” Spivey said about that moment.
Or a third alternative: earn a spot on Team USA in the Paralympics, a feat he’s now done twice in 2018 and 2022.
With support from SemperFi and America’s Fund, Spivey discovered snowboarding and went on to compete in snowboard cross and bank slalom in two winter games. He finished in the top 20 in the world in both events. It’s nothing short of an amazing feat for someone who had never snowboarded before the age of 30 and didn’t know if he would even walk again.
“I probably wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “Just the way things have worked out, I love my life. I’m happy with my life now. There was a time, especially back in 2014, when I was not happy and I needed that catalyst to get me to shift where my life is at now.”
Now married for four years, the Purple Heart recipient also surfs and plays golf and plans to speak to other servicemen and women about overcoming severe injuries and adversity.
“Just because things kind of suck right now, maybe you have to shift and not do what you were doing before and try something new,” Spivey said.