Introducing Zack Bastian, an adaptive sports enthusiast, who stars in the documentary film, Endless Abilities. In the film, Zack introduces the audience to athletes across the country and demonstrates how sport can be a equalizing and unifying force for people of all abilities.
Name: Zack Bastian
Hometown: Kingstown, Rhode Island
What sports do you play? Well…I don’t play any sports, but I do sports. The first adaptive sport I got into was surfing. But recently, I have gotten into stand-up paddle boarding. Obviously, I sit-down. So, it is sit-down paddle boarding, but it is the same SUP board. I got into it because the waves here in New England are just not that consistent for surfing, and there is so much coastline to explore. I also downhill ski. You can see that in the film.
This summer I got into pushing to get into shape. I haven’t technically been in a wheelchair race yet, but I did just do a 10 mile road race here in RI. I never imagined myself getting into push-rim racing. I was into way cooler sports like downhill skiing and stuff. Then, I got into running for exercise and now I am addicted to it. I love the release of endorphins and the feeling of speed.
Zack’s Reflection on Surfing: Surfing is an expression, not just a sport. It is an expression of yourself. And when you get to the beach, your disability is really highlighted. You know, you don’t usually see lot of wheelchairs on the beach. Then, you have to have people help you swap out of your chair. Next, you drag yourself out until the water gets a little deeper. Once the depth of water covers the fin of the board and you can hop on, it all changes. All of sudden, you’re like “Bam!,” my disability is gone. You’re paddling out into the waves, and then shredding it. Now, everybody who has been watching you as a “handicap”person has their perspective shifted. They see you as a surfer now and are like “Whoa!”
What superpowers do you possess? I don’t think I have superpowers. But let me think about it… I’ve got one. I think a lot of people have this one, but it does’t mean it isn’t a superpower. There are also a lot of people who don’t have this superpower. It’s resilience. I’ve noticed that in my life when things get really bad I have an ability to turn the situation into something positive, and that is my super power. When things get bad, I get inspired to work harder and be better.
What films inspire you? The Crash Reel is a film that totally inspired me. It is documentary about Kevin Pearce, an extreme snowboarder, who had a crash that changed his life. The film documents his rehab process, and it directly reflected the process I went through when I slowly learned that I would never walk again.
What songs would be on a film playlist? It all depends on what the film was about. The emotions always need to match the music. A good film has happiness, defeat, sadness, and triumph. I would pick the best song for each emotion.
What songs are on your workout play list? I have been listening to a lot of hip hop when I run. You know, it is fast moving. I really like this question… so are you ready?
1. Lykke Li’s “I know Places” and “No Rest for the Wicked.” These songs are in The Crash Reel.
2. Santigold’s “Radio.” She’s just awesome, and I’m really into her music right now.
3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “10,000 Hours”
4. “One Day (Reckoning Song)”* by the Mojos This one is awesome! Put a BIG star next to that one.
5. “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavalion It’s a dub step song. It’s like a snowboarding song.
6. “Intro” & “Outro” by M83
That’s my stuff, right there.
What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? My mantra is to be the best that I can be. One of the things I tell myself a lot and is on my dad’s gravestone is: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right. So, I try to realize when I am having negative thoughts and get them out of my head.
“Just do it.” I know it sounds cliche like the Nike saying, but really just go out there and do it. Don’t make excuses. You have to have positive thoughts. I’m not sure if this is a mantra, but it is definitely the way that I live. I focus on the present and the future. The present and the future are what keep you going.
How would you define ability? I would define ability as a state of mind. My dad had it right, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right.” He was totally right. If you put it into your head that you can do something, then you can do it. Ability is in your mind and in your soul. And really, there are endless abilities!
What do you hope the audience will gain from your film? Inspiration. I know there are conflicting views on inspiration when associated with disabilities, but there is inspiration in the adaptive sports movement. As Judge Richard Bernstien recently said at a viewing of Endless Abilities in NYC, “Civil rights movements have always needed inspiration. You need inspiration and education.”
So, I hope the film does two things: First, it inspires someone in a hospital bed beginning the rehab process to keep going. Second, since it is viewed by more people without disabilities, I hope the film shifts how they view disabilities and that they are inspired by what they see. When you see people overcoming adversity, it is inspirational.
What advice do you have for others? I was asked to mentor this young guy because he recently got hurt in a dirt bike accident. I told him in one of our first meetings that this would be a give and take relationship because we both can learn from each other. But some of the things I like to share with him is to help him look at all the things he CAN do. You need to find things you love and you can do. For anyone facing adversity in life, you need to stop thinking “This is where was I,” but, “Where am I now? And, where am I headed?”
Who would you like to thank? Oh, my gosh…The list goes on and on and on… Really, the list goes on and on….Well, there are so many people who have contributed to who I am like my parents, family, friends from childhood, and others like Jesse Billauer, whose article inspired me. I don’t want to leave anyone out, but the ones I need to thank the most are my producers in the film, Tripp Clemens, Harvey Burrell, and Will Humphrey. When they saw that I had a story to tell, they helped me develop it. It was the biggest break or piece of luck that I have had in my life. Not only did it give me the opportunity to be part of something so great in the film, but it created in me the desire to help and to be a part of something bigger.