Lift as You Climb: Vasu Sojitra’s Kinetic Energy
The ink is only a few months dry on Vasu Sojitra’s first tattoo. Black lines carve a striking form against his chestnut-brown skin, etching an intricate five-inch lotus mandala in mehndi design. A nod to Vasu’s Indian heritage, the piece’s circular detail traces the 29-year-old’s bulging left shoulder—a muscle that has developed from years of carrying Vasu up mountains, down trails and over just about any obstacle in his way. After losing his right leg to a bacterial blood infection at 9 months old, Vasu has shouldered his body weight, using crutches (or “ninja sticks,” as he calls them) to provide balance and performance.
Vasu doesn’t just get around though. He’s one of the most accomplished adaptive athletes on the planet. In addition to emerging as a premier (and fully self-taught) backcountry skier in the Beartooth and Bridger ranges of Montana, he has climbed the Grand Teton, earned skateboarding shout-outs from Tony Hawk and Nyjah Huston, and become the first adaptive athlete on The North Face roster.
But to really understand Vasu’s journey, it’s important to look, once again, at the tattoo. The lotus flower is important in Hindu and Buddhist cultures, a flower that can grow and prosper from any body of water, no matter how dirty or polluted. As a disabled person and first-generation Indian American, Vasu has taken the lotus’ resilience to heart, working his way up from the small ski hills of his Connecticut childhood to some of the most challenging peaks in North America. In addition to his physical achievements, he’s also found his calling working as an adaptive ski coach and mentor, while developing Earthtone Outside MT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting inclusion and representation for people of color in the outdoors…