Amy Purdy began snowboarding at age 15, but in 1999, she contracted bacterial meningitis at the age of 19 and had less than a 2 percent chance of living. She was able to survive the infection, but lost both of her legs below the knee and would later require a kidney from her father the week before her 21st birthday. Purdy longed to return to snowboarding, and when she couldn’t find prosthetics that would work for snowboarding, she built her own. In 2005 she co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit organization and branch of Disabled Sports USA that is dedicated to introducing people with physical challenges to action sports. She was instrumental in advocating for the inclusion of adaptive snowboarding to the 2014 Paralympic Games.

Purdy stays busy off the slopes with work as a motivational speaker, model and actress. She is a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that provides grants for training, competition and equipment for athletes with disabilities. Purdy has been featured in a Madonna music video and a photo shoot with Nikki Sixx, and she made her film debut in What’s Buggin’ Seth, a movie by Eli Steele, in 2005. She has spoken at TED with her speech “Living Beyond Limits” (over 1.2 million views). She was also a contestant on the 21st season of The Amazing Race with partner Daniel Gale. Purdy also skateboards, wakeboards, runs and rides mountain bikes.