Stand up water paddling, or sit down paddle boarding as the case may be is not your text book sport for someone with a c6 spinal cord disability but it incorportes the 3 F’s for me…. FEAR, FAMILY & FUN.
I had tried kayaking before my accident and I loved it. I thought I would never be able to do any forms of watersports again after injury in 2013. But little over a year out of the hospital, I found myself paddling peacefully in the crisp waters of Lough Gill along side many able bodied paddlers. What a liberating feeling!
Knowing how and where to get started
Knowing how and where to get started was the hard part and building up the courage to ask someone without the fear of ridicule or judgement. But I decided to ask and see anyways; whats the worst they could say “No”. But people’s attitude’s would surprise you; When I approached Northwest Adventure Tours and asked them if it was possible, they were willing to give it a go if I was. So a week later, two of the male instructors and my friend Marek and I arrived at the shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo. We had to make sure weather conditions especially windspeed and direction were calm enough to out on the water safely.
Preparation is Key
Strapping my chair to the top of the sup board alone was quite a scary concept. Through a combination of cable ties and ropes it was secured firmly in place. I then got in to my chair where my safety jacket was secured and fastened in case of the worst case scenario. Finally my hands were fixed to the oar using my active hands gripping gloves.
With help from the professionals, fittings can take quit abit of effort requiring patience and time. It takes between fifteen and twenty minutes for all the fittings, adjustments, life jacket and active hands gripping gloves. But even after that there is another very important component
The final and trickiest step was getting the sup-board and me on top of it safely on the water without capsizing me. This monumental task was exceuted perfectly by the three gentlemen and I was free at last.
The preparation had all been worth it once I was out on those fresh Irish waters surrounded by nature and some breath-taking views. The freedom I felt was amazing and extremely liberating. I don’t need to use my legs to sup and it is also something I can do with my family and friends which is equally as important. It is paramount to have fun whilst pushing new boundaries!