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Brayden Belden
2024 Athlete of the Year

Anyone who has ever participated in an activity like winter or ocean sports understands there are risks of injury. Passion for sport is difficult to explain to outsiders, but when an accident happens, it can be life changing.  And when it is, how does one meet the challenge of such an event?  Our young Athlete of the Year has shown us how through his courage and example.

In 2018 as a 11-year old boy, Brayden Belden was an up-and-coming surfer who won the 13-and-under division of Laguna’s famed Brooks Street Surfing Classic.  That winter, he was snowboarding on a family ski vacation at Mount Bachelor in Oregon when he suffered a severe trauma to the brain.  After being in a coma for almost a month, it was found that Brayden’s injury affected his motor skills so severely that he literally had to learn how to breathe again on his own, then eat and walk during extended stays at hospitals in Portland and Baltimore.

Brayden’s recovery has been a long and hard road involving much physical, cognitive and behavioral therapy, but according to his parents Denise and Matt, his positive attitude and fighting spirit have helped him overcome what to most would be an overwhelming challenge. Brayden is now a 17-year old junior at the high school carrying a full load of classwork with occasional help from specialist aides.  Remarkably, he is back in the water, surfing on the LBHS team and even made the finals of the 2023 Brooks Street Classic! He hopes one day to compete in the USA Paralympics. He is admired by his teachers and peers alike.  Today, we salute Brayden Belden for his indomitable spirit as out Athlete of the Year.

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