Monthly Archives: September 2012

Adaptive skydiving for paraplegics and quadriplegics

There something beautiful about the quietness of the skies. You’re so far away from everything, from all of your problems… maybe that’s why so many wheelers like to take to them?  Skydiving, paragliding, and for the less extreme (that would be me), hot air ballooning, watch these wheelers go up, up, and away.

The first video shows one of the coolest things you can still do in a chair: Going adaptive skydiving. A lot of people in wheelchairs apparently go skydiving all the time. Some have even perfected the art of landing in their wheelchair as they’re coming down, like Damon, a quad from Hawaii. Watch him here

And check out the first paralyzed woman licensed to skydive solo here. This, my friends, is not an easy feat (considering most people equate wheelchair with unsafe).  In her video montage, you get to watch a progression of her dives as she gets more and more experienced. It starts with her going tandem, with someone strapped to her, and you can tell she’s really excited about that jump (her first after all).

By the end of the montage, she’s skydiving solo, and she even does a cool formation with two other able-bodied sky divers as the finale. Worth watching? Absolutely. Watch her adaptive skydiving here

In the next video, check out this adrenaline junkie times-infinity go paragliding while he’s still in his wheelchair. Think he’s nuts? Apparently not, and it’s actually quite safe, as this is one of his ongoing hobbies. Watch him take off and land here (he goes so high!). Watch him here

This last video is perfect for afraid-of-heights babies like me – wheelchair hot air ballooning. Turns out there are a number of accessible hot air balloons in the US. that have baskets (not a lot, but a couple), including this balloon with an actual lift. There is even a paraplegic hot air balloon pilot, the only one in the world, Michael Glen, who you can see in action at a hot air balloon festival here .

There’s so much power in conquering the skies. It must feel completely out-of-body to really get up in it, with the wind in your face (again; a huge draw for SCIers). I am almost, almost ready to try one of these up-in-the-air activities myself. If it happens, you’ll be the first to know. I promise 🙂

Have you gone adaptive skydiving? Would you go again?

Watch the videos!

Damon, a quad from Hawaii, lands in chair after a skydive

World’s first paralyzed woman licensed to skydive solo

Insane wheelchair paragliding

Accessible hot air balloon, with lift!

Michael Glen, the world’s first paralyzed hot air balloon pilot

SCI Superstar: Chris Waddell

What did you do in that dark moment after your injury, when you were still in the hospital and hating the world? For Chris Waddell, he never really had that moment (leaving his doctors quite puzzled).

After a skiing accident in 1988 at the age of 20 (he was a sophomore at Middlebury College and was injured when one of his skis released during a jump), he had this monumental moment lying there, realizing he no longer needed to ever feel intimidated by anybody if he could come back from “this.” He felt like he had a second chance, and was determined to get back into his regular life A.S.A.P so his injury wouldn’t get the best of him.

Within two months, he was back in class. But going back to class in a short amount of time was nothing compared to the life Chris was about to create for himself.

Why he’s fearless

One year after his accident, Chris was back on the slopes, but this time he was using a mono-ski. Chris learned super quick, going from a 6 year old level to an adult/pro level in months. After only 2 years of skiing, he was named the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, and after winning several national championships, Chris went to his first Paralympics in 1994 in Lillehammer and won his first gold medal (he best Paralympic moment ever he says).

But Chris didn’t stop there. He went on to compete in the next four winter Paralympic games, winning 12 medals in total and becoming the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history. During those years, he was able to make skiing his career, which is something that never would have happened before his injury (“My accident gave me to the opportunity to be the best at something,” Chris says in his motivational speeches).

A lot of other cool stuff happened along the way as a pro skier too. He was a model for Eddie Bauer, he was named People magazine’s One of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1998 and he was Dateline, 20/20 and Oprah. But Chris retired from the sport early, leaving the world of the Paralympics at the age of 36.

Chris grew frustrated with the lack of mainstream coverage of the games, and he wanted to find a new way to draw attention to the tenacity of people with disabilities. While mountain biking alone after retiring, he had a light bulb moment telling him he should climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Even though his parents thought he was crazy, after two years of training, and developing an enhanced version of Mike Augspurger’s original adapted mountain bike from the 1990’s (they added one more wheel, so it had four), Chris, a film crew covering his descent, and 61 locals (to help with the climb), scaled the mountain in 6 and a half days (4 days is the average for able-bodied climbers). And he did it all using his upper-body strength. You can read how each day of the climb went here.

And the documentary made on his climb is a must-see. It is called One Revolution (the name refers to each crank of his bike).

What’s next

Chris shares his spirit with others and does some really impressive motivational speaking, mainly for kids. He has a very cool campaign called Nametags, where he talks about the different labels we give people because of how they look. He’s also spoken for the TED series. You can view his official speaking site here.

During his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro (which is in Tanzania), Chris met several people with disabilities and has plans to deliver wheelchairs to people with disabilities there. And he’s received the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Hero of Compassion Award, given to individuals to honor them for their service to society.

Just wrapping up a busy summer promoting his film at the 2012 London Paralympic games, Chris is focusing on his Nametags campaign and speaking while living in Salt Lake City (where he moved in 2002 after the Paralympics, after falling in love with the town). You can keep tabs on this positively beautiful person both inside and out, by following his blog here.

How have you used your injury to motivate you?

Watch the videos!

“Arms of Steel” Great profile of Chris Waddell on 20/20 from 2011

Clips of Chris Waddell skiing from the Paralympic Hall of Fame

Chris Waddell’s motivational speaking

Chris Waddell’s “Nametags” campaign

Watch an old PBS profile of Chris Waddell

Trailer for the documentary following Chris Waddell’s climb, One Revolution