Editor’s Note: Devon Raney fell in love with surfing and skateboarding at any early age and has spent much of his life riding killer waves, carving snow, and jumping half pipes.
In September 2008, during a three-day trip to northern Oregon, Raney fell off a wave and hit his head. “I dove slightly forward, and the curl rolled me up and then pushed me into the hard sand bottom headfirst,” he remembers. “I felt my neck compress and I popped up to the surface in a panic.”
A few weeks later, while riding the bowls at his local skate park, he began having trouble with his vision. “I saw lightning bugs all around me. It was four in the afternoon and fully light out, and I became confused as my brain ruled out the possibility of lightning bugs. I would remain confused for quite a while,” he explains in his memoir Still Sideways: Riding the Edge Again After Losing My Sight.
Raney lost 85 percent of his eyesight as a result of a genetic disorder — Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy — triggered by the head trauma.
The vision loss jeopardized not only his athletic passions but his construction business as well.
Raney was most saddened that the last clear image he would have of his daughter’s face would be when she was 3 1/2 years old.
To navigate the massive change to his health, Raney relied on the skills he honed as an athlete — perseverance, tenacity, and a sense of adventure. He now runs a successful coffee shop with his wife in Washington and loves spending time with his daughter. He still rides, too. Read on to learn how he got himself back on a board. — Heidi Wachter
February is an exciting time for Glacier, and more people were coming into town daily in preparation for the Legendary Banked Slalom. The race is the longest-running event in snowboard history, and I was getting excited. Many of the world’s best snowboarders show up to compete in the race, and it is fun to watch them in person. One of those snowboarders is Tom Burt, who was driving up from Lake Tahoe that week for the event.
Tom Burt is an icon in the world of snowboarding. He would later become like a brother to me and a constant source of encouragement to my family. At the time, I only knew Tom as an acquaintance through our mutual friend Temple Cummins. As far back as anyone can remember, Tom had been coming to Mount Baker and competing in the Legendary Banked Slalom. In previous years I had the good fortune of being entered in the race as well, and…