Alberta man plans to sell ad space on his prosthetic leg

A Fort McMurray, Alta., man says he plans to turn his prosthetic leg into a walking billboard.

A Fort McMurray, Alta., man says he plans to turn his prosthetic leg into a walking billboard to raise money for an upgraded prosthesis that will make it easier to maintain an active lifestyle.

Nate Smids, 23, has had a couple of years to develop his unusual concept. A snowboarding accident in 2006 left him with a difficult decision to make — spending three years in and out of surgery with a slim chance of full recovery, or amputation. Smids chose amputation.

"The biggest thing was I couldn't wait another three years to try and maybe learn how to walk again. I just had so many hopes and dreams of things to do," he told CBC News. Seven months after his surgery, Smids was guiding sea-kayaking trips in Canada, and then in locales around the world, including Norway, New Zealand and Thailand.

Right now he uses two different prosthetic legs, one for while he's in the water and another that's more flexible and comfortable on land. The water leg set him back about $6,000 and the walking leg about $13,000.

But Smids would like to buy a leg he can use both in water and on land, avoiding the need to haul around an extra leg and the worry that it could be stolen while travelling for work. He estimates a good dual-purpose leg would cost roughly $15,000.

No one has taken him up on his offer of advertising space, but he's confident his word-of-mouth campaign will eventually draw clients. 

Smids said he came up with his plan to sell advertising space on his prosthetic leg after he realized how much attention the device drew, especially when he wears shorts. "I don't know the exact number, but probably 80 per cent of people, I can see them looking at the leg before they even look me in the eyes," he said.

By wearing removable, laminated logos, Smids said he could rotate ads on a regular basis.

Upgrading his prosthetic leg will make it easier for Smids to reach his next goal. He starts training to become a recreational therapist this fall.