ENCINITAS — Tom Clardy is a paraplegic who does not let his disability stop him. A “brag wall” in his home in Encinitas shows awards and photos of his accomplishments. Clardy is especially proud of the photo of him as a young man in the Navy. Clardy was a Navy SEAL and then a police officer before a drunk driver hit him in 1972. The crash caused him to lose one leg and left his other leg paralyzed.
After the accident Clardy set new goals for himself. He worked as a movie stuntman, attended college and competed in sports. “Life goes on,” Clardy said. At age 64, Clardy said he likes to challenge himself. “My perspective is, ‘What am I here for? Where am I going?’” Clardy said.
The wall in his home also holds photos of his recent accomplishments. There is a poster from the movie “Alligator.” In the movie, Clardy was a stuntman in a scene where a robotic alligator gnawed off a prosthetic leg he wore.
Another accomplishment is that he competed in the Labor Day Pier Swim. Clardy swam the race by attaching a fin to his paralyzed leg and thrusting his body in a wavelike motion. He came close to finishing the rough water swim around the pier, but cramped up and had to be helped
to shore. Undiscouraged, Clardy said he plans to practice and compete again next year.
In addition to swimming, Clardy is also an active skier. He uses a sit-down ski to whiz down snowy slopes. “I need to move,” Clardy said.
Clardy said he enjoys sports, but physical activity is taxing. “I’m in major pain all the time,” Clardy said. “I love life experiences, but some are a little painful.” He relies on the practices of kinetic body movement, physical therapy and determination to work past his pain. He said setting goals also helps him push past his limits.
An educational goal that Clardy set for himself is to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice. He is studying at San Diego State. “I’m still learning,” Clardy said.
Clardy said through his wide range of life experiences one of the most important lessons he has leaned is self-acceptance. “I’m more than my frailties, I have my strengths too,” he said.