Enjoy the Ride
story by Ashley Stepanek
photo by Erik Aeder
Two years ago, Darren “Q-Ball” Quinn, Jacques Pauvert and Richard Greene launched a new sport they called “catboarding.” Richard, a world-renowned board shaper, masterminded the design: The catboard was constructed using two fifteen-foot sailboards topped with a large platform; on top was a seat and a mast-and-sail configuration. Jacques, north shore restaurateur and expert windsurfer, was the designated sailor. And Q-Ball? He was the reason the catboard was created in the first place. He rode it, this craft engineered to integrate special-needs athletes into the world of windsurfing.
Q is far from a typical windsurfer: At nineteen, at the start of a promising golf career, he and a friend were driving to Utah to do some backcountry skiing when they hit an embankment. Q shot through the windshield, and his injuries left him a quadriplegic. But they didn’t crush his spirit and now, over twenty years later on Maui, he scoots his chair around Pa‘ia town so fast that it’s hard to keep up, always flanked by his trusty black guide dog, Peso, and an entourage of twenty- to thirty-something-year-olds, a few of whom trade living assistance for rent at Q’s house.
He seems to gather people around him effortlessly, like a Pied Piper, and then inspire them with his creativity. He is also a painter, who started honing his talent in high school and college prior to the car wreck, and today his pieces sell well. His work is frenzied, with bright colors streaking across the canvas and punchy, bold lines running helter-skelter. “It’s messy,” Q says, “I get paint all over using my hands and teeth.” No matter: Life is messy, and the adventure is the thing. Last year, with escort boat and helicopter in tow, the catboarding gang crossed the channel from Maui to Moloka‘i and even made a DVD about the trip. Next planned: Crossing from Maui to the Big Island. Taking on one of the world’s roughest stretches of water in a wheelchair? Q just smiles and says, “It’s a funny world.”