Lessons on Resilience From One-Armed Big Wave Surfer Jeff Denholm


“For me to excel at something, it has to be intense,” Jeff Denholm tells me over the phone after completing a 30-minute stationary swim in southern Oregon’s Rogue River. Salmon swam past Denholm, 54, as he took one stroke after the other, grabbing the water with his left hand and following up with his right, where instead of his biological arm—which got torn off in an accident—he’s fit with a prosthetic carbon fiber paddle.

Denholm lost his arm at his shoulder while on a commercial fishing vessel in Alaska in 1993. A powerful wave smacked into the boat and threw him off balance while he was in the engine room repairing equipment. When he fell over, the driveshaft pulled in his outstretched arm, the inward drag splintering his arm, fracturing his collarbone, and breaking his neck. In such remote waters, it took 21 hours to get to a…

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