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Darwin's Dream

Magic Bastos - Freedom in a Wheelchair

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 27 February 2011 | Views [959]

I know him very well now … Magic Bastos!

A few days in Sydney and he turned my days upside down.

Charming, open and playful. Healthy and athletic. Relaxed, patient, observant and stubborn. Curious and dynamic.

Let the tourist guidebook I am writing go to hell for the time being. It can wait another few days. Time is moving at a great speed with Magic Bastos and that s for the better. 

I have not done any sport for a long time ... and Magic Bastos was a must to get me back on track... He takes me to Penrith, a large ornamental lake, an hour from Sydney, designed for  enthusiasts of Cable Wakeboard. He is already in the water when I sit on the bank of the lake, clumsy and totally uncomfortable, my arms outstretched while waiting – anxious- for the next cable to pull me in the water.

Magic Bastos is on the go, turning around the lake, playing with obstacles. He jumps with disturbing ease from water to the air, gliding back , while I keep belly flopping attached to the starting line.


On the path of Magic Bastos, water becomes a mirror, smooth, playful and harmonious

While that same water continues to grab me onto the mud and forces me into violent  somersaults, infiltrate my nose before it finally let me drown and flow . Once again battle is lost and I return sheepishly to the bank for a retry.


When he passes by Bastien launches me cheeky winks but encouragements to persevere.

At the end of the day, Magic Bastos radiates with the pleasure he took during those three hours. I am completely exhausted from a fight that I completely lost. But the urge to tease the limits awoke. Inspired Bastien excited my own inspiration to life.

When Gavin, a friend of the tribe of the Australian couchsurfers that I met few months back, invites me to watch the AFL final on his roof with his ozzie friends, I immediately invite Bastien to join but then I realize .... How to access the roof ... There is no elevator ... a staircase only. What strikes me suddenly like a uncomfortable invitation that I shall avoided so as not to create discomfort between the possible and impossible, does seem to Bastien more like a new challenge to take and win. A physical challenge but also a challenge to prejudices. My own prejudice in the first place. The idea of attending the AFL finals with Ozzie guys on a roof with beer, barbecue style, does suit him very well. He will come and we shall see.

Well, if that is how he looks at things… then let's go!


The entrance is accessible, the elevator takes us to the 6th floor.

So far so good.

Once we reach the 6th floor, there are two additional floors to climb to access the roof.

In life, there is always a guardian angel to clear the ground for the intrepid and positive souls. That day, that guardian angel is embodied by a friend of Gavin, a sort of huge mass of muscles, built like a tank, who invites Bastien to join him to climb the two series of stairs. The tankman is a heart of cream. The ice is broken. The cursed two-story climb becomes a solidarity ascent and a beautiful encounter punctuated by ephemeral effort and joke. Once on the roof, Bastien already knows all the rooftop fans of AFL before me. He did not take him long to be well integrated into the group, his beer in hand and to screen the AFL while I make my merry way to introduce myself to anyone who wishes to detach their eyes from the screen. The game began. Australians gathered on the roof greets me from the corner of the eye with a polite smile. They are caught in the heat of the action taking place in Melbourne ... The tension mounts. Players are in the fire of action.

Suddenly, the unthinkable occurs in the middle of the match: black screen. It is the general cut ... The building loses its energy ... The entire neighborhood is off ...

Around us, ten Australian fanatics of the most popular game in Australia are petrified. They see red in front of the black screen that does not cease to remain black while the game of the year, the big finale, continues to play in Melbourne and in all other TV in Australia ...

Electricity has every intention to prolong its break and electricity is not to be found at the grocer's around the corner.

We must take action.

Out of this cursed area right now.

Direction : towards the nearest electricity supplied pub !

Elevators are blocked.

We got to go down descent the 8th floor through the fire escape ... In the dark ...

One hundred steps at least ... In almost total darkness ...

I look Bastian.

Lights a flame of determination in his eyes Magic Bastos. No problem !

Before the astonished eyes of all fans of the AFL, Magic Bastos starts a determined descent  with high hurly-burly. in his wheelchair, solo,  in the dark, in the stairwell of the building, 6 floors ...


After all, why shall we be surprised…  He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro ...

Another day… We are speeding towards the opera for a special tour for disabled people Bastien. We're late. On Elizabeth Street, Bastien ride his chair… actually he is flying his chair…. He is already two blocks in front of me and I just can’t follow his rhythm. He will be late because of me ...

Magic Bastos moves like a rocket, ascending the gentle slope of Elizabeth Street. I am far behind in sweat, trotting, losing breath, having completely lost the hope to catch up unless he slows down his libertine surge.

Before the opera, we take our breath.

The tour was suddenly canceled that day because there was stage work in progress and it was more difficult to make visits to the disabled. Obviously Magic Bastos does never take a no for no and after some negotiations, the visit was postponed one hour later.

The time for us to speak about freedom…

We sat on the edge of the water.

Bastien then reveals what his freedom to him.

« My freedom is my wheelchair today ... »


"I'm doing a trip around the world, solo, with my wheelchair, to visit a little bit of the world, meet people, explore opportunities for Wakeboard in wheelchair.

Even though you are in a wheelchair, you can continue to do things: wakeboarding, skiing and lots of beautiful things.  What motivates my life and my choices: I want to continue to live fully and make up things because life is too short. I do not want to waste my time.

I had a Kite surfing accident in 2005, which brought me into a chair.

I had my accident at age 27. Before my accident, I could live pretty good stuff and it's true now that I'm in a wheelchair, I still live beautiful and new things.

The chair gave me a lot of things because I had insurance. The chair gave me a little more freedom since the insurance gives me a little money every month and it allows me to be a little freer.

The problem of money is that it takes away a little your freedom because you cannot do anything you want if you have no money. The insurance provides me not a huge amount of money but I can do what I want to do and live fully.

My goals & my passions are sport, gliding, trips, meetings, discovery, and everything offered by travel and sport. Sensations, adrenaline and encounters are what are most important to me. That's how I like to live. Everyone has his or her own vision of pleasure because in life the goal is to get maximum enjoyment. There are so many things to do in life. What gives me most pleasure is sport and travel. This is not what is easiest to do in a wheelchair but it's possible and I find ways to continue my passion and have fun. Of course if my passion was computer and music that would be 10 times easier for me.

But no, there is no deal…  For me, it is sport and travel! This is not the easiest choice but there are solutions.

The Symbol of Freedom: My wheelchair

Everyone has his vision of freedom. For me it's my freedom to do what I want to do and the wheelchair has given me this freedom. It brought me sponsors & another dimension in my life: it enabled me to get to do things that I could not do when I was not in the wheelchair so I do what I really want to do and I find ways to get to do it even if sometimes accessibility takes away some of that freedom. I always find solutions. Always people to help. Freedom is to be the most autonomous, do what you want to do, alone without asking someone to help you. It is not always possible but I can do things anyway. The chair took away a lot of freedom & accessibility. There are sports that I can no longer do because of the chair. Surfing for example. I would love to go surfing. Especially in Australia when I see all the surfers, it is a bit frustrating. I like football too, I loved running after a ball. Skydiving too, I was doing a little skydiving alone. I will do it one day again but with someone behind my back. When you do something with someone behind your back, which slightly takes away your freedom.

What are your new challenges to freedom?

I tried to find back the fun that I had in sports that I played before. I take pleasure. Otherwise, because I'm in a wheelchair now. You cannot do everything as before and as simply as before. I had to re-learn everything with new approaches. I had a very strong entourage around me who helped me to find solutions and to help me ensure to find pleasure in sports that I used to do and in life. I take a lot of fun doing sports, extreme sports, and sensational sports as alpine skiing, wakeboarding, kite surfing. Sport in which you happen to find maximum freedom and enjoyment. They were the sports that I practiced before and that I continue to practice with my wheelchair. I love to combine my trip to these sports.

The most memorable experience of my freedom:

To trip the world solo without anyone to help while I'm in a wheelchair, that's freedom.

In winter there is something that I do is to go alone into the mountains and ski. At that moment, I feel a tremendous sense of freedom.

Tags: australia, disabilities, extreme sports, freedom, passion, possibilities, ski, sydney, travel, wake boarding

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