Monthly Archives: March 2013

Adaptive water sports: Slip, Slide, Swim!


Float like a rock? I don’t think so. People with paralysis can do some pretty magical things in the water, and the water can do some pretty awesome things to us as well.  But a lot of folks with spinal cord injuries really don’t like the water. And the biggest reason we’re scared – we can’t swim (or we think we can’t rather).

This is why you got to check out our H20 inspired adaptive water sports videos below, including an amazing video of a C6 quadriplegic who’s learned how to swim completely on her own (and with none of those silly floaties that always get in the way and always poke you in the face).

Our first video is pretty much the fantasy I have in the dead of winter each year – a tropical paradise where no one gives a sniff about litigation. Meaning – they’ll let quadriplegics go on their waterslides. This is the awesome opportunity that Chris Colwell, a C5-6 quad (and active member of SPINALpedia (who’s made 600 plus videos) took advantage of while living the high life in Dubai. The world famous Atlantis Resort has a location there, and they have a huge water park called ‘Aquaventure,’ which includes a super fun rapids ride.

In Chris’ video (with the camera strategically placed on his lap), watch as he rides the rapids at this unbelievably beautiful water park. And he rides in a double tube with his PCA behind him (there to grab him just in case the rapids get too crazy). Holy cow am I jealous. Watch his video and pretend you’re there

In our second H20 video, Ali, a 29 year old C6 quad, shows off her amazing swimming skills in her favorite pool in Coconut Grove, Miami. She shows the three different strokes – butterfly, freestyle, backstroke – she’s learned do without any devices or floaties taught to her by her swimming instructor Hortenzia, a disability swimming coach referred to her by her friend, Sabrina Cohen (a SCI Superstar profiled here). Ali says she’s learned how to hold her breath for 2 minutes since her lessons. Crazay. Watch her swim like a fish

Our third video may belong in America’s Funniest Home Videos, but boy does he have some guts. His name is Garrett Laubscher, and he’s a paraplegic from Richmond, Virginia. He found the insane courage to go on a ‘Flowrider’ (an indoor wakeboarding ride) at Great Wolf Lodge (an indoor water park) in Williamsburg, Virginia.

In his short yet hilarious video (most likely spurred by his kids egging him on), Garrett hops out of his wheelchair and onto a wakeboard (that he gingerly gets on as the rapids are going at full strength underneath him). As you can expect, he doesn’t last long on the board, but the time he’s on it looks incredibly fun (but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get a gold star for trying). Watch Garrett ride the Flowrider machine

With warm weather almost here, hopefully these videos have inspired you to look at water a bit differently and explore adaptive water sports. From feeding that part of your brain that still craves (no needs) adrenaline-fueled awesomeness (that tube ride can definitely give you that in spades) to taking advantage of the zero gravity effects of water, go get out in the water this year. I’ll be doing it too (so let’s share notes).

Do you still swim? Have you found a water park that lets you go on the rides? What are your favorite adaptive water sports?

Watch the videos!

Chris Colwell, a quad, goes on a tube waterslide ride at Atlantis Dubai

C6 quad who’s learned how to swim independently (omg!)

Paraplegic goes indoor wakeboarding at a water park

SCI Superstar: Briana Walker


Model, hip-hop dancer, motivational speaker and author, Briana Walker is a bright and fun California girl who did something amazing – she got head deep in the world of modeling only a year after her injury. When she was 23, her entire world changed after she fainted while behind the wheel (becoming a T11-12 paraplegic as a result), but within a year she had found her niche in disabled modeling, and made the cover of Mobility Management Magazine.

And Briana has gone on to much bigger modeling gigs since. Whether you know her from the commercials, seen her dance at the Abilities Expo or maybe she came to your school to speak, here’s the back story on Briana Walker, the fierce platinum blonde who’s trademark attitude – enduring till the end – has made her beloved by people all around the globe.

Why she’s fearless

After Briana landed her first magazine cover, another awesome modeling opportunity landed in her lap – she was chosen to be the ‘Krypto Girl’ for Colours Wheelchairs, becoming the “the face” for that chair (check it out). And while modeling for Colours she met Auti Angel, a just as fierce paraplegic who’s passion is hip-hop dance. She brought Briana into the dancing fold and the duo formed Colours InMotion – a dance team (sponsored by Colours Wheelchairs) that makes appearances at schools, conferences and at the Abilities Expo.

The duo even got the attention of the rapper Ludacris in 2008. He had them dance on stage while he performed at the Vibe Music Awards (coolest things ever). They were so good in fact that the crowd didn’t even believe they needed wheelchairs (silly ABs). And their dance team later went on to add Mia Schaikewitz (and after that, Chelsie Hill). Even though Briana isn’t as active on the team these days, she’ll always be one of its founding members.

And it was dancing and engaging people at her performances that got Briana interested in motivational speaking. She now goes to groups and speaks about perseverance, setting goals and ‘dancing on’ no matter what life throws at you. She also wrote the book, “Dance Anyways,” where she opens up about her injury; moving on and the life lessons she’s learned her car accident (copies are still available on her site).

And in 2007 an even bigger huge modeling opportunity presented itself – she was chosen as the new spokesperson for, and was seen in print ads and television commercials all around the world. She was featured in her chair and out of her chair. Click here to watch her in one of the commercials (link)

Briana is also a huge fan of extreme sports. This wild lady will go skydiving, surfing, skiing, bungee jumping and has also completed several triathlons. Not surprisingly, she’s also a ambassador for Life Rolls On, helping to promote their adapted surfing and skateboarding programs.

What’s next?

Since Briana has bills to pay (and unfortunately dancing and speaking don’t always pay that well), she works as a Client Liaison/legal secretary for Fornos Law irm in Century City, ta law firm that only employs people with paralysis (read the law firm’s back story). She’s also vice president of Ralph Rider’s Association, a non-profit dedicated to providing peer guidance to SCI newbies in the southern California area. I LOVE organizations that focus on this kind of thing. The idea is that by meeting someone with a SCI who’s well-adjusted, they’ll be able to better move on with their lives.

And Briana is still affiliated with Colours. She’s been their Southwest Coordinator for several years, helping to come up with new ideas to new life into this fun, edgy brand.

With a beautiful face and a spirit that refuses to quit, the essence of Briana Walker is so enchanting you can’t help but love her. It’s no wonder she been seriously rocking at whatever she does in life since her injury. And there’s a rumor she may be coming out with a second book soon (let’s hope she begins updating her blog more often!)

What impresses you the most about Briana Walker? What’s her secret?

Watch the videos!

Briana Walker hip-hop dancing at the LA Abilities Expo with the Colours dance team

Briana Walker in an commercial

Briana Walker dancing for Ludacris at the Vibe Music Awards

A great interview with Briana Walker (in her in a chair with 24 karat gold rims)