Words by: Tommy Counihan
Photos by: Josh Brownlee and Jordan Drew/Alpine Media
A cool crisp morning greets me as I rise before the sun, begrudgingly putting on pants and a jacket for the first time since winter. My mantra, “Todays gonna be epic!” is just enough to get my southern blood out the door. This is my first time getting to ride proper downhill mountain biking trails with lift access. Today, I get to play outside with my friends!
The scenic drive to Northstar Ski resort blinks by as I pull in to pick up my rental bike. High Fives Foundation always goes above and beyond, and it was clear from the moment I saw my bike that they’d delivered yet again. I couldn’t tell you what it was called, but I know the sound it makes when it gives a man the best day of his life.
Since moving to Reno, I’ve struggled to make it feel like home. I grew up near the ocean and spent as much time as possible in it, on it, or under it. Some days I don’t even know what to do with myself during summer. How’d a South Florida adaptive surfer end up in Nevada anyway? I blame High Fives. The community, the support, the stoke. These are my people.
After the morning brief, fellow High Fives athlete Trey Humphrey was assigned as my mentor. Having a knowledgeable guide definitely boosted my confidence and I was stoked to hit the trails. After a warm up lap, Trey could see I was hungry for some speed, so we stepped it up a notch. Each run had plenty of breaks so we could drink lots of water, discuss technique, and plan for the gnarly terrain ahead. This biking stuff ain’t a joke!
“Riding with Tommy was great. He came out fired up and ready to go and didn’t hesitate for a second to push himself on a bike. Tommy is the kind of guy who thrives outside of his comfort zone”
-Trey Humphrey, High Fives Athlete, Mentor
On the way up to the trail, I get in my head and psych myself out. Once I drop in, I’m met with this immediate feeling of focus. I’m truly present in the moment. Experienced athletes call it the flow state, I call it moving meditation. Each turn or obstacle tackled raises my confidence and by the end of the run I find myself thankful for the break, but wishing for so much more. So it’s back to the lift.
I can’t begin to explain how rewarding it felt to keep up with the big kids all day. Turn after turn, taking the smaller jumps and keeping speed, it was like a dream. From the technical, rocky terrain with big drops and tight lines, to the flow of a jump trail, I tried it all. That’s what I’m here for right? To try my hardest and revel in the stoke. On my own, I doubt I could’ve gotten this far this fast, but, with my tribe’s support, we sent it!
Days end was met with an easy run through a lush green forest to the pro shop. Knowing it was the final run, I put together everything I learned from the day and screamed down the trail like it was a race! I was sad to return such a magical machine, but I sure as hell know what’s in my future. After spending years traveling, I feel like I’ve found a home in Reno, a family at High Fives, and I’ma make em proud, just you wait. There’s a whole world of trails out there and I wanna ride em all!
High five coming your way,