paraplegic kayaking?

While loading boats a gentleman pulled up in front of my house and we struck up a conversation about kayaking. He used to race single man sculls. He was paralyzed in a bicycle accident from the bottom of his ribcage down. He can sit up and operate a car. We both were wondering if anybody has heard of a paraplegic kayaking?

If safety considerations can be met in regards to proper boyancy of pfd, and wet exiting issues, has anybody ever heard of this being done?

I was thinking with the stability and seating in current rec boats it may not be out of the question.

Before the safety police come and arrest me, this is just the start of an exploration.

Definite Yes
For I have observed a paddler, paralyzed from the waist down, finish the Molokai Kayak Race in a double surfski. I have also seen similar swimmers complete 2.5 mile open ocean races, and just this past summer, I saw another paddler on a prone paddleboard finish a 5 mile race, in which volunteers carried him from the beach and ran him up to the finish line.

When my wife and I bought our first kayaks we took the offered safety class from our dealer. In our class was a man who was paralyzed from the waist down that had a new Pungo 14. He completed all the items in the class INCLUDING 2 wet exit and reentries. The instructors worked with him on the technique to use and I believe he did the second with just his wife assisting from her kayak. It certainly can be done with good instruction and selecting the right boat.

Take a look at this …

– Last Updated: Oct-11-12 10:00 PM EST –

At San Onofre lots of people are taught how to surf using waveskis who are paralyzed from the waist down ... a few with less mobility do it too. I've helped a couple of times. Folks usually love it if they can get over the getting in the water and on the board in the waves.

Team River Runner
Around here there is an outfit called Team River Runner that takes military amputees and other disabled out and teaches them kayaking. They undoubtedly have experience in how to set up disabled people in a kayak.

I have not looked into it, but I know they have a web site: Check it out and good luck.


I paddled with a paraplegic guy
on the Nantahala. He used an inflatable ducky and was totally competent on the river. In fact, he was often an asset when it came to group management.

Search Team River Runner
They are a great organization for wounded Vets. There was an article about them maybe in Sea Kayaker or Canoe & Kayak. A paraplegic was interviewd, he had a funny story about someone telling him not to try to stand up after dumping on a WW run.



I bet you have seen a paraplegic

– Last Updated: Oct-11-12 10:56 PM EST –

kayaker and not even known it. I had the privilege of being trained in Adaptive Paddling. My instructor trainer was a quaraplegic. I was paired with a TBI paddler whose injury was sustained in the last two months. He had died but being young did survive with quick medical attention.

We talked about his limitations and together devised a plan that allowed him to paddle safely. The chief test was something he only could do. He had to be able to right himself from face down to face up in water wearing a standard Class III floatation device.

Its all about the functional disability. There are ways to compensate for the disability and to make equipment that allows paddlers with paralyzed limbs to be safe and incredibly skilled.

A couple of years ago I watched a legless gent load his Sea Wind for a three day outing on the Gulf of Mexico at Collier Seminole State Park in Florida. He used a skateboard to get up and down the boat ramp and had an exquisite load plan to address all his needs. He was not getting out of the boat during the three days. Had he had legs, he would not have been getting out of the boat anyhow where he was going..

So was there a disability?

Slim Ray was already co-author of a
ww safety book when he damaged his spinal cord running a drop in the Green Narrows. If you google his name, I’ll bet he’s written a bunch of useful stuff on how he has kayaked after his injury.

Check out

– Last Updated: Oct-12-12 6:29 PM EST –


Edited to correct spelling in first link. Thanks kayakmedic for catching it.

I’ll be paddling with a fellow Sunday
Last time I paddled with him, he was demoing boats. One criterion he had was the ability to fit his crutches into the boat. Only help he needs is boat carries on rough shores. He is a safety boater on the easier trips.

2 person in big cockpit kayak

– Last Updated: Oct-12-12 1:09 AM EST –

Some large cockpits allow challenged person in front
with room for another paddler in the rear ;
- not a true tandem but it works fairly well.
Person in the rear paddles in the beginning,
switch later on during the excursion.

We've taken challenged kids/adults on calm sections
of the Huron River in Milford, Michigan.
SOLAR group =
Getting them out of their chairs and on the water
in a kayak , among the trees and outdoor smells,
brings smiles to everyone's faces. A true win-win.

to clarify

Adaptive Paddling
Look at the Adaptive Paddling Endorsement curriculum by the ACA

If you have the chance to take the course with Janet Zeller, Do So! Look her up and you’ll ended stand the emphasis.

This carries over into adaptations of all gear for everyday needs for lots of body type demands.

One other organization I work with that ties into this thread is the Wounded Warrior Project. Awesome group that is very rewarding.

See you on the water,

Marshall Seddon

The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY


– Last Updated: Oct-12-12 1:20 PM EST –

I took one of the adaptive paddling workshops. Over four days we got instruction in paddling and adaptations, met our prospective paddlers, built adaptations for them, did a pool safety check, and went for a protected-water paddle. It was a great experience.


I bet a sit-on-top would work well in such a case.

It depends
on the specific functional disability for the specific paddler.

Not all disabled paddlers need the same adaptive equipment.

Achilles International kayak program

paraplegic sea kayaker
I bought my second kayak, a well-used 17 foot sea kayak, from an MD who had been paralyzed from the waist down by an accident. Other than rigging the rudder to be hand-controlled (he re-routed the cables through grommets in front of the cockpit, he paddled the boat stock and it had obviously seen a lot of use. He told me he could usually outlast his college-age sons on outings because he never had problems with a sore butt or leg cramps. And his arms were powerful from regular wheelchair use (he still practiced medicine, full time.) He was only selling the kayak because he was buying a newer one.

Friend Greg Allen -Paraplegic paddler
My late friend Greg Allen three times paddled the 1300-mile long Mackenzie River in Canada solo and he is a parplegic!!! I wrote an article for Paddler Magazine a few years ago on Greg.

The link does not exist anymore but here are a few blogs on Greg the amazing man!!!

Still Me Voyage blog and pics of Greg who is parplegic!