September 1 and 2, the Rehabilitation Institute at Santa Barbara, UC Santa Barbara Adapted Aquatics Program, and others from the local area and from as far away as Morro Bay, came together to bring a few days of learning and fun to over 28 total participants at the Santa Barbara marina and bay area. Fourteen of the participants had disabilities ranging from hip and spinal disorders through quadriplegia.
Friday night, we had the Los Banos Del Mar pool all to ourselves to fit participants to the adapted kayaks and have them out for a practice session. We all met again early Saturday morning and moved more than 24 kayaks down to the "outrigger beach" east of the boat ramp, for a fantastic day of fun in the sun and nearly two full hours of paddling around the entire Santa Barbara harbor, including venturing under the walkways at the west and north ends.
My latest designs, which included paddling fixtures and seat adaptations that now attach to a stock Malibu Two kayak without ANY modifications, and a pair of gloves which incorporated a Velcro palm to assist in gripping a paddle, were put to great use throughout the day. One gentleman, who seemed to have the greatest degree of disability of them all, was the last one we were able to coax off the water!
After we packed up all the boats and gear for the day, we all gathered in the park by the pool for a great catered lunch and debriefing. Thanks to the extraordinary planning and effort of the coordiantors from UCSB and RISB, this rather large event came off without a single hitch!
Our most recent outing with the SCORE group was on October 25th
at the UCLA Marine Aquatics Center. We had 20 kayaks out and
paddled all the way out beyond the outer breakwall and back: 2.4 miles!
On September 13, we met for the third time at the UCLA Aquatics Center
with Jane, Josh(?), Sean, and 4 (3 not shown) other disabled adventurers at 2PM.
Sitting between Jane and Sean is (I think) Josh (and I appologize if I remembered your name wrong!). Josh suffered a severe bicycling accident two years ago and has great upper-body strength. Standing to Sean's right is Steve. Steve is an integral member of the UCLA Aquatics Center in Marina Del Rey.
On July 12, we got together with the SCORE group (www.SCOREFund.org)
again at the UCLA Aquatics Center in Marina Del Rey
where we had another opportunity to put two of my paddling
fixtures and seat adaptations to the test.
For the second time in just a few months, Sean (SCORE founder) brought together another enthusiastic group of kayakers at the UCLA Aquatics Center in Marina Del Rey. One of the guests was Jack Fischer (white shirt and pants, on the turquoise XT), whom I am happy to say is becoming a regular in the group, not only for kayaking, but also for scubadiving. Denise and I have had the pleasure of diving with Jack on several occasions over the last few years, and even on the coldest of days he was the most enthusiastic and energetic of the bunch! Jack is a school teacher in Los Angeles who suffered an accident while training for the Olympics on the parallel bars about 24 years ago. I think Jack turned 47 this year (2003) and so he has been a quadriplegic for approximately half his life. I saw a photo of him doing the "Iron Cross" during his training years, and I have to say he must have been quite an athlete then and he still is today!
Click HERE for photos of Jack and me diving at Catalina!
Here is what my friend Kay had to say about her involvement with this event:
Thanks for taking me with you last Saturday (July 12, 2003) for a very special day I will keep in my heart always. Please pass this on to your readers:
I was one of many able-bodied people escorting four happy, brave, disabled people on a kayak paddle around the Marina Del Rey channel. The "Fab. Four" included Jane, Jack, Sean, and Gerald...and they were awesome!
I can't remember when I last held a continuous smile on my face for such a long duration. Jane was a trooper! I felt her joy as she slowly moved through the water on her kayak using a non-traditional method....paddling with her feet! It was amazing to see this vibrant young woman with so much "go power" and determination. Sean and Gerald were equally enjoying themselves and could go much faster using their able upper body strength. Jack (a quadriplegic) paddled around with Mark Theobald (the disabled kayak inventor/engineer extraordinaire)! (OK, that's what she wrote so I guess I'll leave it in. ;~) MT) Jack had such a great attitude about his disability as he handled his kayak with smooth precision and a huge smile on his face!"
SCORE (which stands for Spinal Cord Opportunities for Rehabilitation Endowment) (www.SCOREFund.org) is a wonderful organization that enables people to get out and enjoy themselves in extrordinary ways. Sean treated everyone to lunch and the camaraderie continued into the afternoon. The entire day was fantastic and oh so inspirational. I shot a bunch of pictures, but none of them can compare to the photo I have permanently imaged in my heart.
Thanks to everyone for letting me join you. I hope to go again.
On May 17, Jane challenged us to find a way to let her use my paddling fixture
without using her hands!
This event took place in the harbor at Marina Del Rey and was organized by members of the UCLA Aquatics program and a foundation called SCORE. I'll publish more information on these points soon.
Jane was also the first to make use of the seat adaptation,
including the padded PVC pipe seat adaption described above.
We had her on the Scrambler XT at first, but it proved to be too unstable
for her because of the way her disability affected her upper body.
Here is what I first wrote about Jane:
Jane is a second-year college student at UCLA, in her early 20's, and suffers from CP or a CP-like ailment which causes similar disabilities.
She has severely limited control over the upper half of her body, to the point where her speech can be quite difficult for some to understand.
Because of her lack of arm and hand control, Jane came up with the idea of moving my paddling fixture far enough forward for her to use her feet to paddle the kayak.
She needed both the paddling fixture and seat adaptation on the Malibu Two.
Without the seat adaptation she would have rolled right off the kayak! And, because of her spasms, the Scrambler XT just wasn't wide (stable) enough!
And here is (part of) the email that Denise wrote back to me after I wrote thanking her for getting me involved in this particular event:
"Thanks. The feelings are mutual.
Working with you and Jane yesterday is truly what I call a "Magical Moment."
It is moments like these that excite and light me up in life.
My eyes just welled up in tears and my face with laughter and a smile when I saw Jane take off on her own in that kayak. We are so incredibly blessed to have experiences like these that bring so much joy to our lives and benefit others beyond belief. Within Jane's voice, which was so difficult to understand at times, I recall the words she spoke so clearly-"
"This is so cool! I never thought I would be able to do this! We did the unexpected!"
"It is days like these that are soothing to the soul, there has got to be some chemical change that occurs in our bodies with experiences like this, cuz I feel really good! Awesome work!!!"
Denise's email really sums up the way we all feel! It does feel really good, but it is also simply a lot of fun to be out there with such enthusiastic and high-spirited adventurers!
On April 1, Aaron went out on the water for the first
time since his Xtreme-Downhill Skiing accident two years earlier.
Noone who saw him paddling would have guessed he is quadriplegic!
DISABLED DIVERS INTERNATIONAL
One of the best contacts I could possibly hope to offer you is that of Denise Dowd in Carpinteria, California. Denise is a key member of Disabled Divers International and organizes local kayaking trips for disabled paddlers and dive trips for disabled divers. She is an energetic instructor with PADI and the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA). Denise teaches people with disabilities to dive and she runs an Instructor Training Course (ITC), teaching instructors how to work with the disabled in diving!
If you are interested in learning how to provide safe assistance to disabled paddlers and divers, Denise can offer "Buddy Diver" and "Buddy Paddler" instruction for a nominal fee to cover the cost of course materials and commercial boating fees. Class groups are encouraged to inquire! I participated in one of Denise's Disabled Diver Buddy classes in June and am now certified to dive as a buddy with certified divers having any level of disability.
So far, I have relied heavily on Denise's knowledge and expertise in my outings with the disabled paddlers using my adaptive paddling fixture. Denise organized the outings and brought together the participants in addition to making side trips to Santa Barbara to borrow extra kayaks from Mark Olson's shop - Paddle Sports. Denise can be reached by email at: denise.dowd at cox dot net.
Here's Denise trying the fixture out for herself!
(Click On then Drag Across the Photo for Special Effect!)
PADDLE SPORTS - SANTA BARBARA, CA
Another great resource in the Santa Barbara area is Mark Olson, formerly of Paddle Sports at 100 State Street. Mark is regularly involved with teaching kayaking skills and leading kayak excursions for paddlers with disabilities. I don't know what it is about these guys, but like his counterpart, Denise Dowd, Mark's energy level is through the roof! He always has plenty left to share his expertise in kayaking with paddlers of all abilities and disabilities.
Mark can be reached via email at: moceankayak at earthlink dot net, or by way of his old shop at: (805)899-4925.
On April 28, 2001, local kayak distributors, retailers, and paddling enthusiasts will be conducting another kayak outing for area disabled kids and adults. We will be using sit-on-top kayaks designed by Ocean Kayak, Inc., in particular the extremely user friendly Malibu Two because of its stability and manueverablility, and the fact that it will allow the parents or other able-bodied paddlers to participate with the disabled individual.
Cindy Tokar of City of Ventura Community Services, Mark Olson of Ocean Kayak, Inc., Rich Arnold and Mike Lamb of Channel Islands Kayak Center in Oxnard, Denise Dowd of Disabled Divers International in Carpinteria, and Mark Theobald, publisher of KayakDiving.com, are hosting this event which is being organized by Cindy Tokar. Special recognition for these events is due to Mark Olson and Denise Dowd for their extraordinary effort in bringing these events together and providing the equipment, manpower and knowledge needed to make them safe and successful. And, I would like to personally thank Ocean Kayak, Inc., not only for designing the absolute perfect kayak for these outings in the Malibu Two, but also for providing generous support for these events by way of direct donations of kayaks and accessories, and much needed assistance through their local dealers and distributors. Thanks OK, we couldn't do it without you!!! -Mark Theobald
The April 28th, 2001 outing was a huge success! We had 23 kayaks and 31 paddlers out on the water all at the same time!!! One tandem group on a Malibu 2 and a single paddler on a Drifter (and don't ask me how he did it on the Drifter) managed to capsize within the first few minutes of the outing. Otherwise, we had a very nice, and uneventful, two hour paddle along the lee shore of the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard.Mark Olson took charge again of the onshore instruction and Rich Arnold (Channel Islands Kayak Center) was there early to help with getting all the boats, equipment, and people down to the lower dock and back. I do have some photos of the upper dockside activity. Unfortunately, as soon as we started heading to the lower docks, I had to put my camera away and assist with getting the paddlers in the boats and away from the dock.
The majority of the people participating were children with disabilities, and, for many of them it was their first time on the water. Another special part about this event was that siblings and parents were able to take part together.
The real beauty of these events is that the wheelchair and the disability are left behind as everyone participates at the same level in the water and sharing a fun experience together. Even the most tired of them made no mention of wanting to get out of the water!
Tania Agalsoff was present for the second time to lend much needed assistance in getting gear and boats back and forth and in providing additional able-bodied guide service for the outing. Tania was a local sales rep for 3M Corp., located in Camarillo, CA.
Cindy Tokar, City of Ventura Community Services, organized this event and brought all the participants together. It was Cindy who, without a moments hesitation, leaped into the water to recover both the capsized boats and their paddlers at the start of the outing. Not for a moment after did she ever complain of being cold! (The water was a balmy 65 degrees, at best!) She is very committed to those kids!!! Denise Dowd, Disabled Divers International, was present again (and as always) to help in literally every aspect of the event.
I am REALLY looking forward to next time!!!!!!!! We're thinking of trying to put together a kayaking and picnic event at Lake Casitas this summer, with a possible campout to take the event into Sunday! The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two will, no doubt, play a big part in this event too!