“Sure, everything is harder, but you can still live your best life. I want to share my story and help other people because I want their possibilities to be bigger too.”
An athlete by nature, Paulo Guerrero trains relentlessly and doesn’t shy away from any challenge. Since his SCI in 2018, he’s enthusiastically immersed himself into pretty much every adaptive sport that’s come his way: adaptive rock climbing, skiing, rowing, boxing, basketball, marathons and even ultra-marathons. Wheeling about 20 KM a day, you’ll find him touring from North Vancouver to Dundarave and well beyond, including 14-hour days from Deep Cove to UBC.
“Before my injury, I was tree-faller,” says Paulo. “I loved my job climbing 70-foot trees and swinging around with a handsaw.” Outgoing and fearless outside of his profession, he did a lot of off-road biking and motorcycle riding. “After hitting a pothole on my motorcycle in 2018, I sustained a broken back, neck, ribs, shoulder and arm,” he says. Waiting for the ambulance with people all around him, Paulo realized that he couldn’t feel his legs.
“After the accident, I worried about losing my sense of freedom, but two months at GF Strong started to change that,” he says. “This is where I learned how to do everything for myself.” It’s also where he met SCI BC Peer Coordinator, Ryan Clarkson. “Ryan came into my room and told me exactly what I needed to know. He somehow knew not to overwhelm me with information,” he recalls. “He told me that I could connect to him and others at SCI BC whenever I felt ready, whenever I wanted. Which was beautiful and exactly what I needed.”
Paulo decided to forge his own path and rediscover his fearlessness by taking up sports. He found others on Instagram who motivated him. Now, he wants to encourage others with and SCI.
“Sure, everything is harder, but you can still live your best life,” he says. “I want to share my story and help other people because I want their possibilities to be bigger too.”
The rush of happiness he gets from his adventures is contagious—just check out his Instagram account. It’s full of adrenaline-pumping activities and a lot of laughter. “If you’re down in the dumps, you should get outside and get active,” he says. “You’d be surprised how much that helps—it’s great for the body and the mind.”
In 2020, Paulo was the Scotiabank Charity Challenge Team Captain for Team SCI BC, wheeling and rowing great distances to motivate others and raise funds for SCI BC’s programs and services. More recently, Paulo tested the functionality of a much-needed product for paraclimbers like himself—adaptive climbing pants, which have been created in collaboration with the Canadian Adaptive Climbing Society, designers, climbers and outdoor clothing and equipment giant, Arc’teryx.
“I want to be the kid in a wheelchair who stands out,” says Paulo. “I don’t want to just match people who walk and run—I want to exceed what they do.” This determination is what pushes him every day. “I think we tend to give up way too early. I know this first-hand because before I was injured, I gave up continually. I left a lot on the table, and I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Paulo’s advice to others?
“You can go farther than you think IF you stop listening to your brain,” he says. “You can give yourself a hundred reasons to quit anything at any given time but, as soon as you retrain yourself to stop thinking like this, and start thinking what if I actually do it? Then no one can touch you. That’s it, you’re golden, and you’ve won the race at that point.”