Paddling to Portland: 'I wasn't going to let this injury define me'

Paddling to Portland: 'I wasn't going to let this injury define me' »Play Video
Nathan Woods stand-up paddling on the Willamette River

EUGENE, Ore. - On September 13, 2003, Nathan Woods laid motionless on the football field after a vicious tackle.

Woods was the quarterback of the Marshfield Pirates in Coos Bay.

As he began to lean forward to plant his foot to finish a throw, a defensive lineman tackled Woods from behind. His left knee was "blown up."

"It tore my ligaments and burst an artery," he said.

Woods was in a hospital for two weeks in Coos Bay, then transferred to Portland after the scope of his injuries required specialized doctors. He has had 10 surgeries.

"I wasn't going to let this injury define who I was going to be," he said, "and who I am now."

Woods wanted to stay active.

"I saw Lance Armstrong getting really big and winning races and thought I could do that, but that didn't work," he recalled.

Woods tried running. "That didn't work."

Woods said skiing was something he could do once he got into the boat. "I have very little feeling in my left foot, but it's also hyper-sensitive. If I step on a penny, it feels like something is stabbing me."

But when he saw someone stand-up paddling, he said to himself, "I should try that."

"The more I did it, the more I started feeling better about every part of my body that have had aches in pains for the last 10 years," he said.

Woods started paddling in 2010.

To commemorate 10 years since the injury, Woods and Shane Perrin of St. Louis, Mo., are stand-up paddling from Riverwood Park in Eugene to the McCormick Pier in downtown Portland this weekend.

Woods plans to reach Albany Friday evening, Champoeg Park in St. Paul by nightfall Saturday and McCormick Pier in Portland Sunday afternoon.

"There's part of me that just loves being in nature, hearing the water, hearing the rapids, hearing the birds," he said.

Stand-up paddling is the only sport, Woods said, that works every muscle in the body.

"The idea of doing a challenge that pushed the limits in an endurance set kind of felt right," he said.

The paddle to Portland is also about raising money for Perrin's non-profit group, Beyond the Board, and Oregon Active, both of which provide adventure therapy to those with disabilities and other life-challenging activities.