Kanya Sesser, a 21-year-old Holt adoptee from Thailand, skateboards, skis, races, models and surfs. She’s also a college student studying fashion marketing, and she hopes to join the Billabong surf team soon. Born without legs, Kanya has become an inspiration to friends and fans around the world with her motto “No legs, no limits.”
My name is Kanya. I grew up in Pak Chong, Thailand, raised by Buddhist monks as a baby. They found me wrapped in a blanket on the steps of a temple when I was just a week old, and noticed that I didn’t have any legs. When I turned 1, the monks sent me to a hospital in Bangkok to live until someone found a home for me. I lived in the hospital until I was about 3 years old, then I was placed with a foster family who I called “my grandparents,” but were not my actual grandparents. They treated me like I was their own kid and raised me until I was adopted at 5 years old to a family in Oregon.
My parents, Jane and Dave Sesser, found me through Holt. They have two birth sons who are both a couple years older than me, Scott and Todd. I came to America not knowing any English or knowing anything about my new adoptive family. I was just clueless about everything that was going on at the time, and being in my new family home was surprising and challenging for me. Adapting to day-to-day life, however, wasn’t hard for me at all.
As a child, I adapted to not having any legs and overcame obstacles by walking on my hands and climbing onto things — using my own knowledge and doing things my way. I have always been a very independent type of person, and never liked it when people helped me or did anything for me.
Now, as a 21-year-old college student studying fashion marketing, my mentality is still the same. I’m working toward my bachelor’s degree, and still traveling for sports and motivational speaking. Someday, I want to make actions sports street wear with motivational words, like my current motto “No legs no limits.” It’s a reminder that everyone should be respected. Missing legs doesn’t make me less or more of a person. Everyone has their own challenges on a daily basis that can be more or less difficult than each other.
As a kid, I did make many friends, mainly because I was a very friendly, funny, free-spirited and outgoing person. I made friends more by my personality than through the curiosity of me not having legs.
I have always been a tomboy type with a bit of girly personality and style about myself. I started skateboarding when I was 9 years old, just messing around on my neighbor kids’ skateboard. I taught myself to do jumps on curbs, just having a good time cruising with the board. I started to love skateboarding so much that the neighbor kids just gave me their skateboard and I was really happy. I was always riding on it a lot, so it was convenient. After school, I would always go to the skate park and just go for it at the park. Kids were actually pretty impressed by how I ride and do tricks on my hands. They had never seen a girl with no legs skateboarding ever, so it surprised them.
One of my favorite sports is mono-skiing. I started mono-skiing through Shriners Hospital for kids with the snowboard and skiing team up at Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon. Mono-skiing is a contraption that I ride in a bucket that connects to a shocking spring on one ski. It has two outriggers that I hold onto with my hands to help me turn where to go with the ski. I love going fast down big slopes — doing jumps, going down fun long runs — and I’m always up for a challenge when it comes to racing with other skiers. Just having fun is what it’s all about.
I also love water and being in water. Whether it’s the lake, river or the ocean, I’m always in the water. My other favorite sport is surfing. I took my first surfing lesson with the Tualatin surfing team when I was around 9 years old, about the time I joined the snowboard team. While I would go to the mountains on weekdays, on the weekends I would head to the beach and surf. My first surfboard was a long board. My instructor chose it for me and I just adapted to riding long boards and love it. My riding style is different. I usually ride “goofy,” which means I face left, with my right foot on the front of the board. Style is everything for me. You pretty much surf the way you surf. You can’t teach yourself to surf differently and everyone has a unique style. I guess that’s just the way it is. I surf lying on my stomach then gradually stand up, walk to the nose of my board after I get the feel of balance, and go with the waves. Most people like to chase for the bigger waves. I’m not really the big waves type of girl as you’ve got to be pretty aggressive to get waves like that and I guess I’m pretty much the opposite. But I like wherever the waves make me happy and trying new things that suit me.
I have always been a positive person — largely in thanks to the people who have cared for me throughout my life. The people in Thailand who raised me until I was 5 helped me to become a good, calm person. The monks taught me a lot as a kid by showing me love and forgiveness, and I learned the value of Buddhism. Even after I left their care, they kept in touch with me while I lived in Thailand. They taught me a lot that has helped me all through my life. And although I was initially scared of leaving Thailand with my new family, I wouldn’t be able to do the things I am doing if it wasn’t for my adoptive parents. My mom and dad have supported me every day and all though my sports. My mom, I love her. We have a great relationship. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She has been to all of my races and traveled around the world with me to watch me compete in everything that I do.
I just live my life without limits and am not afraid to do things — from working toward surfing on the Billabong team, to college, to participation in the 2012 Paralympics. Even though there are certain things that I might not be able to do, it doesn’t stop me from trying or to find a way to do it my way. There will always be people who are curious about me and I get questions, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m down for questions. Just ask me anything and I will definitely answer them. Sometimes, I joke about my disability and laugh about it with my friends. You just need a little sense of humor at times. It’s great. Be happy.
If you would like to contact me, go on Facebook to my fan page, “Kanya Sesser nolegsnolimits,” or just “Kanya Sesser.” I’m also on Instagram as @kanyasesser. Or you can reach out to me by email at email@example.com for my latest news and blogs and to see clips of videos and pictures.
Kanya Sesser |Tucson, Arizona