Adaptive Water Skiing for Wheelchair Users

If you’re looking for a fun way to cool off during the summer, water skiing is an excellent option for the adventurous. You can feel the breeze on your face as you glide through the water. It is also a great form of exercise! Water skiing has been adapted so that adventurers of all abilities can participate. All that is required is a body of water than can accommodate a high-speed boat.

There is a variety of equipment that make the sport adaptable, including sit-skis, outriggers, and shoulder slings, although many leg and arm amputees use the same equipment as able-bodied athletes. The availability of adaptive equipment for water skiing allows people of all ages and abilities to experience this fast-paced sport.

Water Skiing Basics for Wheelchair Users

Before beginning lessons, interested athletes are first assessed to determine which equipment will best suit their individual needs. They are checked by trained volunteers who evaluate the athlete’s strength, mobility, and balance. They also talk with the student about his or her goals and any potential markers that might be indicated on the participant’s information sheet, such as medications, surgeries or allergies.

Water skiing is an independent sport that is relatively quick to learn. This means that after taking a few lessons and getting the basics down, water skiers can continue to participate along with their friends and family.

Like many sports, safety is important. The participant must be able to turn over in the water from face down to face up. Wearing a life vest or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) should be able to aid the skier in turning over.

More About Adaptive Equipment

Sit skis are a great way for people with spinal cord injuries or other disabilities that prevent them from standing up to enjoy this sport. A sit ski has a seat or cage fastened to the top so that the skier can remain in seated position. Some sit skis will also include a cleat that holds the rope for those who may experience trouble gripping. This is known as a starting block. They come in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, with the more noticeable difference being the width. Other differences include material, amount of concave and type of edges.

An arm sling offers another type of solution for those who experience trouble gripping the tow rope with one arm. The arm sling is a modified handle that fits into a harness, which worn much like a life jacket around the skier’s shoulders. Because of its design, which allows it to take up forces that the missing or impaired arm would have been taking up, the athlete doesn’t have to worry about any drag if they fall.

Types of Competitions

There are different types of water-skiing competitions in which interested athletes can take part. One of them is an 800-foot-long course called the Slalom. This competition consists of the skier going around six offset buoys while being towed by the boat. The boat’s speed is increased by two miles per hour each time the skier successfully completes the course. This will continue until the maximum speed is reached. From there, the skier’s rope length is shortened by predetermined increments. Skiers continue until they fall or do not go around a buoy.

Another exhilarating competition is known as the jump. The athlete skis over a ramp that is 22 feet long and 14 feet wide. Skiers select the ramp height they want, between one meter, 1.25 meters, and 1.5 meters. In jump competitions, they try to go the farthest distance possible in the air and ski away.

For more information on adaptive water skiing for wheelchair users, check out the Disabled Sports USA website.

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