Paddling seems to run in Joe Broc’s veins, as he paddles with Manu O Ke Kai Canoe Club during the regatta summer season. He also was featured on our MidWeek The Weekend cover March 28, 2008, with Pure Light Racing, an adaptive outrigger canoe paddling club.
“We do long-distance races with mostly wheelchair-bound individuals,” says Broc, who has been with Pure Light Racing for 13 years and with Manu O Ke Kai for five. “A few other people are blind, and a few people have an amputated arm or leg.”
These individuals, like Broc, refuse to let their physical differences prevent them from doing what they love.
Broc was born with spina bifida, a congenital defect of the spine, which meant Broc has below-the-knee paralysis.
He first got interested in paddling after a family friend (Chris Gardner) suggested he give it a shot.
“I remember my first day, my coach (Randy Sanborn) looked at me and I remember the first thing he asked me was, ‘Can you swim?’ and I said yes.”
Although he is unable to use his legs, Broc keeps his spirits high with an optimistic mindset.
“It really opened my eyes to the world,” he says. “All that matters is how I deal with it. If I have a positive attitude, then I’ll have a positive life.”
He uses his inspiring way of living to impact those in his community, as well. Broc started working as a substitute educational assistant at Laie Elementary back in February 2012.
“My mom (Tindy) suggested that I should work with kids with autism,” he explains. “I took classes to become a long-term autism substitute educational assistant.”
His love for helping others spurred him to work with special-needs children at the school in October 2012.
“I like seeing them progress and comprehend what they’re doing,” he says. “I like seeing them excel in their academics, and I like seeing them be social with the other kids in their integrated classes.”
And this local boy is dreaming big. Broc graduated from Kahuku High School in 2006 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Hawaii Pacific University in 2011.
He wants to take his talents to the broadcast industry and has a special interest in radio and television.
“I like talking to people, and I like being a social person,” says Broc, who also expressed his interest in acting. “When I was younger, I was really shy, but I eventually got out of my shell.
“I like being out and about in public with my friends and family.” Broc also has dreams of becoming a wheelchair body builder. Besides paddling, he works out at his home gym, where his brother Boe, who wants to be a personal trainer, helps him out.
“I work everything out, except my legs,” Broc adds with a laugh.