TEAM FBC MEMBER INTERVIEWS.
EPISODE 5, DALE MONTGOMERIE
Team FBC member, Dale Montgomerie, doesn’t let anything stop him from chasing after the most epic of adventures – even battling a debilitating autoimmune disorder that at times, prevents him from walking.
Originally from Streaky Bay, Australia, Dale grew up with the dream of becoming a professional footy player. That was until 2014, when he woke up one day and couldn’t walk. After years of tests and flare ups, specialists finally concluded that he was dealing with ankylosing spondylitis.
An autoimmune disorder, ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that over time, can cause bones in the spine to fuse. For years, Dale’s diagnosis meant that he risked weeks of immobility simply by doing the things he loved most. While for some, that prognosis may be enough to throw in the towel on their dreams – for Dale, it’s filled him with newfound gratitude, lighting the spark that fuels his passions.
Following a few years travelling the world in search of surf, powder and dirt, Dale moved to Canada in 2018, spontaneously landing himself in Fernie. Fast forward 3 years, and he’s now an electrician in the midst of perusing his Permanent Residency, with the hopes of being able to spend more years doing the things he loves – which coincidentally, are the same things that hold the key to his cure…
Read on for Dale’s inspiring story – from his struggle with disease, to maintaining his stoke for adventure despite disability. As per usual, best enjoyed kicking back, with a cold beer in hand (Dale recommends a Timelapse Helles Lager, but assures a Hit the Deck will also do)…
FBC: So Dale, you live with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). What exactly is that, and how does it impact your life?
Dale: Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease which comes with chronic inflammatory and arthritis symptoms. It comes and goes in waves and can appear overnight. When I’m in a flare up, I can’t even roll over in bed or manage to get around the house, so it has an enormous impact on my physical ability. It’s debilitating. It’s also really hard on my emotional state, as it takes away so much that I enjoy. I can’t do the activities that I love, and I say no to a lot of things because I can’t plan ahead, because I don’t know if I’ll be good or not.
FBC: Do you still get to do the things you love, despite having AS?
Dale: I do still get to do the things I love – maybe not always when I want to, but I make the most of my good health when I have it. Having spent the last 6.5 years trying to learn how to manage my symptoms, I’ve learnt I just have to be patient, as much as it’s a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. If I’m not feeling up to it, I have to be okay with that. I also just started a new treatment at the end of April, and it’s been a game changer.
FBC: Speaking of your new treatment, what exactly is it, and how has it impacted your ability to do the things you love?
Dale: At the end of April I started a new treatment with a drug called Inflectra. I just have to go to Cranbrook every now and then to sit on a recliner and have an IV drip in for a few hours, and it’s changed my life 100 percent. It’s really given me back my quality of life so far. It’s allowed me to do what I want, when I want. Bike as much as I want, and as hard as I want, and not have to worry about whether or not I can do something because it might put my health at jeopardy for the following days or weeks. There’s no more overdoing it, and it’s fun to be able to plan trips knowing that I’ll be good to do them. I even got to tick off some bigger bike rides this season, that I haven’t been able to plan for previously. Most of the times I like to just go for a cruise on my bike, but every now and then I like to really put my head down and push myself and see what I can do, which is a great change.I guess we all take health for granted a lot, and even sometimes when I am good for a while I tend to forget about how bad it is to not have good health. But generally I’m pretty good at acknowledging that my body’s good – appreciating it, not taking it for granted, and just making the most of it.
FBC: So now that you’re able to get after it a bit more, what’s your favourite way to adventure?
Dale: If I’m with my friends on my bike or snowboard I’m a happy man. Sharing the experience is key!
FBC: Being from Australian how did you get into snowboarding and mountain biking?
Dale: I bought a season pass at Treble Cone and booked a one way ticket to New Zealand when I was 25. Landed in Queenstown and dropped a heap of money on all of my snowboarding gear before I had ever even seen snow, haha! I didn’t even know how to snowboard, or if my body and health could handle it. I went up the mountain, strapped in, had a crack, and I haven’t had a season off since. I love it! As for biking, I swore I was never going to buy a bike because I know I can’t take it easy. But I bought a bike. I then swore I wasn’t going to do any jumps. But then I just bought a full face and pads and yeah whatever… They have definitely paid for themselves!
FBC: Sounds like you really know how to get after that #FernieStoke! How was this past summer, and any exciting plans for the upcoming winter?
Dale: My summer was great – it was the best summer I’ve had since I’ve started having flare ups. I mean, last summer was great too – I bought my first bike and got a taste for it, but I couldn’t really get after it. I rode Hyperventilation twice last season, and both times I couldn’t walk for a week afterwards. I had to say no to Trail to Ale a heap of time last year too, because I was never up for it. But this summer, I just biked as much as I wanted. Just the freedom of good health has been amazing. As for this winter, I’m hoping to get out into the backcountry more, I’ve got a lot of learning to do. Now that my body’s good I feel like I’m able to walk up the mountains on my split board and get after it a bit. Hopefully I can also get around to a few other resorts. One thing I’ve learnt from having ankylosing spondylitis, is it’s best not to make plans, because I’d always seem to get let down and miss out on things I’d planned. So I’m just going with the flow. I’m just hoping to get out and ride a bit more of BC.
FBC: Sounds like you’ve got an awesome winter ahead of you! Before you take off, what would you say to anyone who’s struggling with a disability of some sort, but still wants to chase after adventure like you?
Dale: Really appreciate the good days and listen to your body. Learn to be happy with what you can do at the time and never mind what you can’t. And be patient; you’ve got to deal with how you are at the time. If you’re down a bit, just sit tight, and you’ll come good at some point to go and do it. And keep trying different things – there’s some sort of treatment, or avenue, that works for everyone. Keep trying and hopefully you’ll find it.
That’s some wicked advice. Thank you so much Dale, for being vulnerable, giving us a glimpse into your life, and sharing your passions with us.
To keep up with Dale, his fight for health, and his wicked adventures, check out his Instagram page @dalemont.