Calgary Stampede concertgoers delighted by unlikely crowd surfer

Darryl Tait has been wheelchair-bound for 12 years and wants to help break the stigma surrounding people with disabilities

By Leanne Murray | July 19, 2022 |5:00 am

Several people captured the moment Darryl Tait crowd surfed in his wheelchair at Alexisonfire in Calgary last week.

Photo: Kevin Smith

Crowd surfers are a familiar sight at rock shows, but one man who did it at last week’s Alexisonfire concert at the Calgary Stampede turned some heads.

Darryl Tait asked some fellow fans at the Coca-Cola Stage to hoist him up, and the crowd erupted in cheers as he threw his arms in the air.

Some took out their phones to capture the unique moment, sharing videos and pictures on social media.

It was something many had never seen before because Tait was no ordinary crowd surfer—he did it while in his wheelchair.

And it wasn’t his “first rodeo” either.

Tait has crowd surfed at a music festival and three other Alexisonfire shows.

An unlikely crowd surfer

His first time was in December of 2012. The Canadian rock band had announced a farewell tour after splitting up the year before.

“Every time they play, you just never know when it’s going to be their last,” says Tait regarding Alexisonfire.

He travelled to Vancouver to see them live for the first time and it was there that he decided to crowd surf.

“Their music has helped me get through a lot of my injury and my journey. And I think that’s why it means so much to me to go to those concerts and be part of it.”

The injury Tait refers to happened on Oct. 11, 2009, when he was just 19 years old.

Near-death experience

He was a freestyle snowmobiler at the time and was performing at a show near Epping, New Hampshire.

“I pulled for a backflip and ran my snowmobile out of fuel halfway through the backflip and under-rotated and got crushed by my sled,” Tait says.

His injuries were life-threatening. Tait’s spine was severed and he was left paralyzed from the chest down.

After a long recovery period, Tait moved back home to Whitehorse, Yukon.

He eventually got back on a sled in 2013 and competed at X Games for adaptive snocross, and he’s currently competing in the Dunbar Summer Series for adaptive mountain biking.

Adapting to a new life

Tait says he was inspired by Aaron Fotheringham—a well-known extreme wheelchair athlete who tours with the popular Nitro Circus.

“He’s setting the statement for wheelchairs and what they’re capable of,” says Tait, adding that staying active has a positive impact on his mental health.

“It’s what keeps me going. Just keep setting goals and keep striving for them.”

One of those goals is to crowd surf at every concert he goes to now, as long as the horde is big and strong enough to carry him safely.

Tait has a seat belt to hold himself into his chair, he straps his feet in, and removes everything from his pockets.

Memories to last a lifetime

He’s grateful to his fellow music fans who are willing to help him crowd surf, adding so far, no one has said “no” when he’s asked to be lifted.

“In that environment with those concerts and the people that are there, they’re all so loving and caring and very passionate,” says Tait.

Another reason he loves to do it is that it helps break down some barriers for people with disabilities.

“It just brings a sense of normality and awareness to people with disabilities that we’re all equal and we can all participate in the same kind of things.”

Calgary has been a bit of a second home for Tait over the years as he has family in the area and visits often.

After crowd surfing at the Stampede last week, he says Alexisonfire frontman George Pettit gave him a high-five.

“It was a memory to last a lifetime, for sure.”

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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