October 19, 2017
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People with major mobility issues can still participate in many adventure sports. With a little assistance from friends, dedicated programs, and assistive technologies, everyone can enjoy BC’s outdoor adventure playground.
Most adaptive sports programs are managed through organizations that require an assessment of skills and abilities before participating. Some offer ongoing courses and even wilderness camps, while others can accommodate drop-in visits. All of them operate under the philosophy that the outdoors belongs to everyone, regardless of physical limitations. Here are four accessible sport options in BC and where visitors can experience them.
A TrailRider is a lightweight, all-terrain, one-wheeled chair that’s been ergonomically designed for maximum comfort while minimizing environmental impact. With two “sherpas” (front and back) navigating the TrailRider, this chair has nimbly traversed hikes from the floor of the Grand Canyon to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to BC’s own West Coast Trail. It’s an excellent option to navigate uneven ground and remote locations, and can easily tackle any of BC’s many accessible hiking trails, such as at Grasslands Loop Accessible Trail in Peterson Creek Nature Park, Kamloops, or Naikoon Provincial Park in Haida Gwaii.
A global movement toward disabled surfing (originating in Australia) has reached BC’s west coast. With the help of trained staff and volunteers, surfers of all abilities have the chance to ride the waves. Power To Be, a non-profit organization with programs in Vancouver and Victoria, provides inclusive programming to get people with disabilities back into nature. Their surfing adventures use TrailRiders to get surfers down the beach and work with Tofino partner Pacific Surf Co. to provide adapted instruction and in-ocean support. Because of water’s buoyancy, surfing can be particularly supportive for mobility issues related to spinal cord injuries.
Kayaking offers a highly adaptable environment that can accommodate a wide range of mobility issues from visual impairment to loss of limb(s) to cognitive disability. Some kayaks, for example, are outfitted with pontoons to provide extra stability for paddlers who suffer from seizures. For amputees, there are pivoted paddle adaptations that allow for one-arm control of the kayak, and floor-mounted, adjustable pivot balls that fit into prosthetic sockets that accommodate for either below-the-knee or above-the-knee amputees. While this sport can accommodate maximum supervision via double kayaks for those who need it, for paddlers with a greater level of independence and athleticism, the right modifications can almost make their disability disappear while they’re on the water.
Just east of Vancouver in the lower Fraser Valley, the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club offers drop-in rates through its PaddleALL adaptive padding program. The Alouette River is typically calm, providing a gentle experience.
Disabled skiing began after WWII when physically injured veterans learned to adapt this sport to their new needs. Today, it’s a sport widely enjoyed by people with a variety of disabilities from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, visual and hearing impairments, and more. Adaptive skiing combines specialized equipment and training to support the special needs of almost anyone who wants to enjoy the snowy slopes of BC. Some techniques are as simple as ski-bottomed crutches or tethers, while other methods are considerably more advanced involving a model that supports sitting. The most recent development in this field involves equipment similar to a bicycle that utilizes skis instead of wheels. Regardless of the level of technical challenge, all forms of adaptive snowsports require special training.
BC has a lot of mountains to choose from so contact BC Adaptive Snowsports to find the most appropriate program. They work in partnership with 12 adaptive snowsports club programs around the province in locations such as Vancouver, Whistler, Revelstoke, and Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops. Book a lesson just for the day or participate in a longer camp if the program is the right fit.
Opening image: Tofino offers many opportunities to experience nature. Photo: Johan Lolos
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