OK, so this entry is really about kayaking but “canoe canoe?” sounded like a cool title so I went with it. It got your attention, right? So read on and learn about my latest excellent adventure.
As an exhibition event at the recent Vets Games in Colorado, Joel Berman and his Adaptive Adventures crew hosted an adaptive kayaking clinic focused on getting us disabled vets back on the water. It was no small ordeal. They brought together more adaptive kayaks, paddles, seats, straps, padding, specialty gear, instructors and volunteers (plus hot dogs) than I ever thought possible, fit us each perfectly to our own boat, gave us a bit of paddling instruction then sent us out onto the water with our very own “experienced guide.” It was exactly as I had hoped it would be…here’s the gear, here’s what you need to know, now go do it and have a blast.
Within minutes, I was cutting through the water with a huge smile on my face. My mind drifted back to my pre-injury kayak experiences where, as a kid, I loved both canoeing and kayaking, especially at summer camps and through the marshlands of Cape Cod. I discovered the freedom of movement in the water, the controlled and methodical speed of the boat, the fluid motion of the paddle and the “oneness” you feel with nature when it is peaceful and quiet. Those memories have stayed with me through the years. I couldn’t believe I was feeling it all again.
So, what was my adaptive set-up and how did it go? Check out the photos below. As a quad with absolutely zero grip, I had previously through that velcro and duct tape were my only – and best – options for holding the paddle. And balancing in the boat? Well, I thought a camp chair and tons of foam stuffed under my butt were my only options. Guess what? Some creative dudes at a company named Creating Ability in Minnesota (check our www.creatingability.com) found the answers. The developed and market two types of hand adaptations that both worked well for me. The first was a spring loaded strap that fastened to the paddle and squeezed my hand against it. I had a bit of slipping but loved it. The second was more of a wrist lock system where metal clips on wristbands “grabbed” special receivers on the paddle. It was perfect. An adjustable aluminum seating system, complete with lateral supports and a “moldable” cushion held me in place and two small outriggers kept me right side up. At first, I thought the outriggers were kind of silly (read: not cool) but after using them and taking the kayak through some waves, I fell in love with them. And they don’t slow you down a bit!
To sum it all up, I can’t wait for my next opportunity to kayak and really hope that someday the little lake in our backyard will become the new home of a Savicki family kayak.
Then, again, there is always the lure of Alaska’s Inside Passage or the Amazon River.
Top and middle photos by Nick Lancaster and bottom photo by Ken Holt (all for the VA).