handcapped help

-- Last Updated: Jun-07-04 8:05 PM EST --

My oldest son has a friend who is paralyzed from the waist down. While sharing some tales of a few recent kayak trips with me, his friend expressed a desire to try kayaking.

i figure someone here could advise me if it would be reasonable to try and get him involved.
I have a couple short fat rec boats and a sit on top. The place I thought I might take him to, the average water depth is only a couple of feet though there is some deeper water.
I'm not a real experienced paddler but am very comfortable around water having spent most of my life around boats. Naturally I would insist on use of PFD and would stick real close to him and take every precaution recommended to insure his safety.
Is this something I should take on or should I just try to help get him in touch with some of the paddling organizations I've seen recommended here for others with disabilities?

how comfortable
is this person with being in the water? Don’t want panic to set in even though safe if he /she gets dumped.

good question
Good question Northman. I really don’t know if he has spent any time around water since his accident about 5-6 yrs ago. I have a pool so it might be a good idea to get him to come over & be sure he can swim and is comfortable in the water.

it would be a good start.
My blind friend got a bit skittish about tubing behind a powerboat a few years back. And he did a fair amount of sailing in his time. So better safe than sorry. On the other hand my mother has little use below the wait of her limbs and swims with the best of em. Just be patient and try introducing him/her to the water a little at a time if at all worried. Good luck hope it works out.

handicapped paddler
Absolutely he can do this! I have a scanned copy of an article on Dave Calver who ia paralyzed from the waist down and he whitewaters!

If you’d like a copy of the article, send me an email (and your email address) and I’ll be happy to email it to you. It’s an inspiring story!

I have a good friend …

– Last Updated: Jun-08-04 9:05 AM EST –

I have a good friend who is paralyzed from the waist down who paddles on a regular basis, with some minor seating adaptations & very little help otherwise. Also takes along a wheel chair & does overnights on the river.
Started out paddling an Old Town Loon 111 kayak; now paddles a Mohawk Solo 14 canoe. Does fine.
She does feel comfortable on the water & is a fairly decent swimmer. I think that is very important. I think it is also very important that those paddling with her have excellent paddling skills, and everyone always wears pfds.
I encourage you to make an attempt to help this person get involved in paddling. In a short period of time, I believe you will see how it's going to go, and make the necessary adjustments.
The ACA has some programs that would help; I believe they are called adaptive paddling.

Good luck,

I was wondering as to how she does the transfer from the wheelchair to the boat?

I say do it
ask the doctor first but I see no reason if the person can sit in a kayak and has the mobility to paddle it can and should be done. There are many handicapped paddlers already on the water and in many other even higher risk sports. I can tell you that after not paddling all this spring how much it ment to go for one paddle. It was great and made me feel like a human being again so yes I would at least try. You should be able to find some good info to help you out on the net. I think if I were handicapped it would mean a lot to me just to sit and float on the waves in a kayak even if I didn’t go anywhere.

Redmond …

– Last Updated: Jun-08-04 9:24 AM EST –

She is married & has the assistance of a loving husband. He puts her boat in the shallows on the edge of the river, or lake. She lines up the wheelchair with the boat & he assists her in getting into the canoe. After that, she's pretty much on her own. They mounted non skid pads in the area where her feet are, so her legs don't move & throw her off balance. They have mounted a folding seat (padded seat & seat back) with straps that attach to the canoe seat. This helps her to maintain her upper body balance. She paddles the canoe with a kayak paddle & I bug her all the time to practice bracing; this assists her with balance on sharp turns, or unexpected run ins with rocks. She is very strong in the upper body, and is also very strong willed(not a complainer, not a quitter); both of which help immensely. When we take breaks; she usually stays in her boat if we only stop for a short time. Otherwise, the procedure for getting into the boat is simply reversed to get out. Her husband paddles an Old Town Pathfinder & carries her wheelchair in his boat.If we/she wants to swim, the wheel chair is moved to the river edge; she is assisted into the water (with pfd on), and she's on her own!
The amount of assistance she needs is miniscule when compared to the great company she provides on the river. Never fails to remind me that my petty gripes are just that; pretty petty!


P.S. The look on people's face when she is getting into or out of her boat is "absolutely priceless"! We all love it!

if the person has a strong desire by all means get em in a boat . As folks have said all good advice . I have taken a couple of guests out that are para’s . As said , find out before hand how they feel about the water , this would also include how they feel about having their face in the water , a pfd that supports the head out of the water would be a good idea . as their inability to move their legs could put them face down w/a regular pfd.You should be very comfortable doin all rescues , you should also be aware that a para will not help as much in a rescue as a regular able person . Their weight will also be different to you , which will become evident just getting them out of the wheel cair , you’ll need assitance , don’t try this or paddling with just the two of you. I used a SOT but had to do alot of adjusting of the backband to support the person. One thing that surprized me was , I had expected them to handle the upper body paddling very well as they used their arms alot to wheel themselves about . But after a hr. on the water they were tired and I towed them in , something you should also be comfortable with . End result was great they loved being on the water, even by our standards it being a very small paddle. Just know that you will be responsible for their safety at all times. During a basic paddling skills class w/reg. folks whom had all said they were comfortable round water and were swimmers , 2 of the 6 were really scared when it came to wet exits , so even when ya ask someone and they tell ya what they believe it can turn out very differently . Good luck , contact the ACA for guidelines as stated afore.

My brother-in-law is
similarly handicapped and that has not kept him from swimming at all. I would agree that a handicapped person would probably enjoy paddling, if they are comfortable in the water.

The transfer to a SINK would require more assistance than to an SOT. I could not get my brother-in-law in a SINK because his legs are so heavy and he can offer no assistance of his own.

Good luck and good paddling

Adaptive paddling.
Check out this website. http://www.usarc.org/

It’s the site for United States Adaptive Recreation Center. Check out their programs and it will give you an idea of the things people can do with the proper set-up and instruction. They are on the west coast but they might know of programs in your area. I volunteered up there for a couple of seasons in the winter teaching the monoski. It allows people with spinal cord injuries and leg amputations to ski again. They have a great summer program as well. Adaptive water skiing, sailing, paddling, jet skiing, mountain biking, you name it. Have fun.


Great Article
There’s a great article in last month’s Hull Speed magazine about handicapped kayakers. One of the points that they made was that after they got in the boat, they were no different than anyone else. If not better cuz they usually have very good upper body strength. They can also go everywhere anyone else paddles,i.e., they’re not stopped by a wheelchair.

Another yes
From personal expereince (Lost most of my eyesight 4 years ago), I can tell you that one of the major obstacles of dealing with disability is fighting depression. And nothing works better than dogs or boats!!

Tell the person your concenrs (stabilty, swimming ability, panicking in the event of a capsize or whatever) and see if they still wnat to try it. The controlled environment you described sounds like a nice starting point.

I really appreciate the encouragement though I’m not a completely self centered a$$ hole I do tend to be more of a loner type and reaching out to someone sort of goes against my nature. For some reason when my son told me this I was moved to try to give this young man a hand. I guess a large part of it is knowing what it means to me to be able to get around freely. With all the positive response from you guys it looks like a great opportunity for me & him both to broaden our horizons. Thanks again.

Can be a great equalizer…
as noted in an earlier post. My son’s friend (spina bifida) can really tear around in a kayak, and really shines on the water. He is in a wheelchair, but does have some use of his legs. It’s nice to see them doing something athletic, outdoors, on equal terms.