A collage of shots brings a wave crashing across the prow of a sailboat; a spiraling view of a skier speeding down a gleaming white trail; a paddle reaching above the crest of a wave, easily propelling a surfboard of sorts over its peak.
But this sports documentary isn’t like any other. Endless Abilities, a Wind Powered Productions work-in-progress, is a film about adaptive sports in New England. It follows Zach Bastian, who was paralyzed from the waistdown in a dirtbike accident, as he pursues various sports in the New England landscape, as well as some other disabled athletes he meets along the way.
The film is a collaborative project between, as they say at the end of the film, four guys with one mission. Mr. Bastian is the film’s star, but the behind-the-scenes work is all done with unflagging enthusiasm by college sophomores Harvey Burrell, Tripp Clemens and Will Humphrey.
The project began when Mr. Bastian approached Mr. Clemens to take some pictures of him surfing for his mother. After that initial introduction, Mr. Clemens realized that here was a story waiting to be told: the chronicles of a few sportsmen and women whose lives pay tribute to countless others who daily defy their disabilities.
Mr. Burrell was on board, especially when he found out that he lived two blocks from Piers Park in Boston, an organization that specializes in adaptive sailing. He thought they could really get something going if they combined Mr. Bastian’s story with this organization that helps Mr. Bastian, and other like him, transcend the traditional limitations of their physical conditions.
These young director-cinematographer-producers are trying to tell the stories of Mr. Bastian, along with Emily Obert, a recent graduate of MIT, who was paralyzed from the waistdown in a 10-foot fall. The filmmakers aim to shed light on the progress that has been made in the realm of adaptive sports — but also how much work remains.
From the porch of the Chilmark General Store amid the morning rush, Mr. Burrell mused on the importance of the work he and his friends are doing, although with a healthy dose of self-deprecation.
“There’s not enough awareness and knowledge about this,” Mr. Burrell said. “If people can get out there and be active, and involved with their communities, they’ll lead happier and healthier lives. Zach told us that if he’d been able to get out earlier and get involved in adaptive sports earlier, he would have been much happier.”
Even the knowledge that there are options, that disability is not a life-sentence to a wheelchair, seems to make a huge difference: “We want people to know that whatever you did before you were disabled, you can do again with adaptive sports, with some limitations. We have one girl who wants to be able to do adaptive pole-vaulting, and we don’t think we’re quite there yet, but one day that might be possible,” said Mr. Burrell, with characteristic optimism.
Mr. Burrell, Mr. Clemens and Mr. Humphrey are hoping to take a cross-country road trip from Boston to San Diego, spreading knowledge and showing their film along the way. This summer, they hope to collect enough donations to finance their roadtrip and to continue making the film.
“The point of the roadtrip is to push it national, and to get a vast range of sports in the film. It’s an exciting project, and we’re excited to film and surf more, and tap into this incredible scene,” Mr. Burrell said.
As much as they hope to change the field of adaptive sports, they recognize the changes that already have occurred in themselves. Mr. Burrell recalled one such moment: “I was talking to Will about this the other day, and he said something I’d been thinking about: If I were paralyzed, I know now that I would be okay. I know what’s out there and I know that I would be able to keep doing what I love.”
The filmmakers’ admiration for the people whose stories they tell shines through their work-in-progress, and in their approach to the work they do. “At its core,” Mr. Burrell said, “it’s really about the perseverance and the power of the human spirit.”