Variables 14.7 Thayne Mahler: The One-Legged Wonder

By Mike Artz

Name: Thayne Mahler
Born: September 3, 1977
Sponsors: Burton, Oakley, Ohio Willowwood, and Jason McAlister (food sponsor)

Who I am in life is greatly influenced by the people I meet. Each positive, intellectual person I’ve crossed paths with so far on this journey through life has influenced me in some way. When I met Thayne a few years ago at Mt. Hood, he was one of those people. He’s a snowboarder whose quest is purely to make as many turns as possible all over the world, not to make enough money to have the best electronic equipment in town or a down payment on an Audi.

Thayne pursued getting a job at High Cascade Snowboard Camp so he could ride all summer and share his love for the sport. He moved from Boise, Idaho to Bend, Oregon to ride better mountains and surround himself with great riders. He was also honored by being invited to the King Of The Hill contest in Alaska, but unfortunately it was cancelled last year.

So you might be thinking there’re a lot of riders out there who can pull all that off, but what if they only had one leg? Thayne lost his leg as a result of falling off a 75-foot cliff in the Mt. Hood backcountry several years ago. A dozen operations couldn’t fix the damage that was done by the compound tibia/fibula fracture. This didn’t seem to slow him down, though, as Thayne was back on the snow the second day after getting his prosthetic leg.

His goal now is to just be a damn-good snowboarder holding his own with anyone else on the hill. He snowboards year-round, never complains, is always happy, and will be quick to remind you, “Don’t work too hard or your leg will fall off.”

If you could take your leg off to beat one person upside the head, who would it be?
I can’t really think of one person, but there are people when I’m driving who I’d like to beat upside the head. I hate rude people.

Have you ever lost your leg?
I’ve woken up several times when my roommates have taken and hidden it in miscellaneous places. Then I have to hop around to find it.

What size board are you riding?
A 160 for freestyle and rails, and a 165 on the rest of the mountain.

You’ve got a beautiful, smart girlfriend-how’d you find her?
I looked for a woman who has other interests than snowboarding so we’d have different things to talk about.

What has moving from Idaho to Bend done for you?
That was a good transition. In Idaho I did a lot of backcountry riding, but in Bend it’s a different scene. The mountain’s a bit flatter, but there are all sorts of rolls and kickers, and there’s a pipe and park. I’ve been able to ride with some really cool people like Marcus Egge and Jason McAlister.

I don’t want anyone out there going and chopping their leg off, but what are some of the positive things that have resulted from your experience?
It’s given me a different outlook on life. No one really thinks about losing a leg until it happens. I’m also able to help out other amputees who have questions.

What’s the dumbest thing someone has said to you?
The dumbest question that I always get is, “Did it hurt when they chopped your leg off?” Of course it hurt! They took a chop saw and cut my leg off and then rounded the bone with a grinder.

Were you asleep?
Yeah, but I asked to see all the tools first. I’m curious like that.

If you had the power to fix one thing in this world, what would it be?
I can think of a lot of things that would be super rad to fix, but I don’t know if it would be good to fix them. I think there needs to be a mix of good and bad in life. Without challenges, life would be boring. But I guess one thing would be a pill to make people’s limbs grow back.

What’s your favorite thing about coaching at High Cascade in the summer?
There are a lot of good things, but my favorite is just chilling with the kids. It’s cool when a kid shows up at camp and he’s shy or not the most-liked kid. You take him and teach him how to ride, and you can seee how it affects his social life and confidence. They get so much more out of camp than just snowboarding.

Are there people who’ve helped you out?
Marcus Egge has been a huge help; Vin LaVecchia at Burton and Gus Buckner at Oakley have also helped me a ton over the years. Plus, Jason McAlister has not only been a huge riding influence, but he’s also kept me fed. And thanks to everyone at Ohio Willowwood for helping amputees have better lives.