There’s no keeping Darryl Tait down

Whitehorse's Darryl Tait broke his back snowmobiling in 2009, but his spirit remains indestructible. The 22-year-old paraplegic hasn't let his life-changing accident slow him down.

Whitehorse’s Darryl Tait broke his back snowmobiling in 2009, but his spirit remains indestructible.

The 22-year-old paraplegic hasn’t let his life-changing accident slow him down. He has branched out to new sports and even continues to snowmobile. He is pertinacious.

“It’s what I was doing before my accident, so it’s what I want to keep doing,” said Tait. “It’s what I know and it keeps me moving forward in my life.”

In addition to riding his modified snowmobile the last two winters, Tait has started competing in handcycling and WCMX (wheelchair motocross). He severed his spinal cord while performing a backflip, a trick he landed many times before, during a practice session at New Hampshire’s annual Grass Drags. During the flip his snowmobile’s engine stalled, slowing his rotation, and his quarter-ton machine came down on him.

RELATED:View video on Darryl’s life.

“This October 11 will be three years since the accident and life is definitely moving forward,” said Tait. “The first year was definitely a lot of learning, learning how my body worked, learning how to get around and learning how to do the things that I used to love doing.

“The second year was a little more of a reality check – that this was going to be the rest of my life. So it was a bit of a depression, and I had to grow past that.

“Now into the third year, it’s more about acceptance and it’s easier with everyday things.”

WCMX is a new, evolving sport and Tait is at the vanguard of it. Basically, it’s doing tricks in a skatepark in a wheelchair. It could easily be called extreme wheelchairing.

Tait is able to draw on his skateboarding background when figuring out new tricks.

“You learn to judge transitions and judge speed,” said Tait. “I have the technicality of it in my head, it’s just applying it to a new feature. There’s other people doing it, it’s a new sport, so we’re all learning it together. Facebook is great because we can connect and show each other what we’re doing.”

Tait has competed in two WCMX events this summer. In June he placed second at Canada’s first-ever WCMX event, the 9Lives No Limits Adaptive Skate Comp in Burnaby, B.C.

“I talked to the judges and they said, ‘It looked like you’re going to take first, but it looks like you petered out.’ I recently broke a screw (in my back) so the doctors said don’t do anything,” said Tait, who had two rods and 12 titanium screws implanted in his back following his accident.


“So for the three or four weeks before the competition I was just sitting around, not doing much, waiting on the doctors and what they were going to do with me. They didn’t get back to me soon enough, so I went to the competition and just did my thing.”

The next month he snagged seventh at the Shoe City Open hosted by Life Rolls On at Venice Beach in Los Angeles.

“I didn’t do as well as I hoped,” said Tait. “I crashed in my run so I didn’t get judged too well on that. The year before I did pretty good. We’re starting to see more and more competition in it, more people getting into it. It’s definitely a growing sport and is spreading all over the world.

“It’s showing everyone that it doesn’t suck to be in a wheelchair. We like having fun with it.”

The newly formed U Kon Echelon Bike Club is a developmental club in Whitehorse with the goal of getting as many people cycling as possible. That’s how Tait got into handcycling and how he ended up winning his division at the Tour of Juneau this month.

U Kon Echelon founder Trena Irving “gave me the handbike and I got around on it,” said Tait. “I started trying it out and seeing what I think. This summer she approached me to see if I wanted to get competitive with it and join her club. So I’ve been riding with the club and doing time trials and then she invited me off to Juneau.

“That’s where I did my first competition, but there weren’t any other handcyclists, so it was pretty easy to come first.”

Not only is Tait back on his snowmobile in the winter, he hopes to begin competing in snocross – like motocross, but on a snowmobile – in an adaptive class.

“The goal is, now that snocross is back in the Winter X-Games, I want to shoot for that this winter,” said Tait. “It’s just relearning how to control it. I lost more than half of the functionality of my body so I can’t dominate the sled like I used to. The adaptation really helps. So I can control the machine now; I can jump it, fly it. The worst part about it is I’m fully strapped to the machine, so if it goes for a tumble, I’m going with it. So I really have to be cautious and think about what I’m doing.”

In his first competition since 2009, Tait placed seventh in the 700cc class at the Sima Uphill Challenge in Whitehorse this past April. He would have placed higher, but was unable to continue racing when his custom sled’s seat broke.

He was nonetheless awarded the King of the Hill Trophy at the event.

“It was the first time with the new adapted seat and I’m just starting to push limits, starting to jump it and see what I can do with it,” said Tait. “I have another design in my head, that I want to plan out.”

Tait was raised in Atlin, spent nine years in Yellowknife and finished high school in Whitehorse. He was also a skilled snowboarder, competing at the Canada Winter Games and winning medals at the Arctic Winter Games, including two gold.

He continues to use his snowmobile expertise as an employee of Yukon Honda.

“I’m not major into the sales, but I like to talk to people about riding the products – ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles – and narrow down what they’re looking for,” said Tait.

“It’s definitely made life easier with all the support of everyone in the North,” he added. “Everywhere I go everyone says, ‘What’s up? Great to hear what you’re doing.’ That definitely helps. Whenever I need a hand with anything, getting up a curb or trying to build a new seat for my sled, everyone is there for me.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read