Tag Archives: adapted water skiing

SCI Superstar: Stephany Glassing


Photo credit The Marietta Daily Journal

A former sit-n-ski water skier with several adapted water ski titles under her belt, Stephany Glassing is one of the few licensed female paraplegic pilots in the country. And that’s not all. She’s also a mother, an artist, former Ms. Wheelchair Georgia 2003 and a lover of monkeys. Yes you heard us right – monkeys.

The recipient of a Capuchin monkey (she requested one to help with depression), she’s become a huge disability service monkey advocate since receiving Tracy, speaking on behalf of the organization that gave her her monkey whenever she can.

To learn more about Stephany, an amazing woman and dedicated single mother who refuses to let her chronic pain win, read on.

Why she’s fearless

Raised by a mother who worked at NASA, Stephany dreamed of flying as a little girl. She grew up in Melbourne, Florida near NASA and was a total “Florida girl,” loving the sun and water. But like so many people when they’re a teenager, in 1984 she made a bad decision after drinking – she decided to get into the car of a friend who was drunk.

While a passenger, the car rolled and Stephany was ejected, with the car landing on top of her. She woke up a few days later in the hospital and was told she would never walk again. Stephany was grateful for the second chance at life and moved on strongly.

After her injury, Stephany went on to receive a degree in computer science from a local community college, and then she received an art degree from Arts Institute of Atlanta. She also became pregnant not too long after injury, giving birth to her daughter Briana; a young woman who went on to become Miss Atlanta in 2012 and Miss Cobb County (pictured above with Stephany). Stephany and her daughter were extremely close and remain so till this day.

In the first years after her injury, Stephany actually was not active athletically. It wasn’t until the early nineties when she discovered adapted water skiing. Growing up she loved the water, so this was a natural fit. From 1995 to 2007, Stephany was an active water skier and part of the USA Disabled Water Ski Team. In 1999, she won the title of Disabled Water Ski Champion and the USA National Ladies Sit Ski jump Champion.

Stephany eventually had to retire permanently from the water skiing in 2007 when she began experiencing chronic pain from sitting in her wheelchair for over 30 years.  And when she had a strange reaction to taking antibiotics in 2010, having a condition called Osteomyletis, which was a mass that literally melted her L4 vertebrae. Stephany had to get a rod and plate put in to help with the damage, which only increased her chronic pain.

Missing the water, Stephany is now an adapted rower, a new sport she’s fallen in love with, and she says it helps with her chronic pain immensely.

What’s next?

While doing peer support at the Shepherd Center near her home town of Marietta, Georgia, Stephany discovered Able Flight, an adapted flight nonprofit in North Carolina, that helps people with disabilities get their pilot’s license. An adrenaline junkie, Stephany knew this was for her. It took for several years because of health setbacks, but she eventually got her pilot’s license in 2012, flying a specially modified Sky Arrow S-LSA.

For Stephany, flying has been a beautiful tonic to her soul. “I love the sense of freedom flying gives me. It really gets me get out of my chair,” she likes to say. But 24 years later after her injury when her daughter moved out for college, even her love of flying couldn’t keep her spirits up.

For the first time since her injury, she became depressed. A longtime artist, Stephany thought outside-the-box to help herself, and applied for a Capuchin monkey from Helping Hands. She received Tracy, her monkey, just a few years ago, and her life had been transformed. Having Tracy has helped her in so many ways – a companion, someone to care for and of course someone who can help her too.

While Stephany’s athletic achievements have been impressive since her injury, what we’re really impressed by is her ability to thrive in the face of chronic pain, and fight depression and win in her later days. She proves we all have that fighting spirit within us, if we just know where to look for it.

Have you considered getting a Capuchin monkey?

– Learn more: Able Flight and Helping Hands

Watch the videos!

Woman with Disability Learns to Fly

Imagine a Monkey – Stephany shares how Tracy the monkey helps her

Adaptive rowing for pain management

Extreme Water Adventures with a Spinal Cord Injury


Gentle swimming with a therapist this post is not. You can leave your floaties and zen music at home. We’re profiling all of the extreme water activities people with spinal cord injuries can do, and even we were impressed. From “barefoot” water skiing to jet skiing, the water can be our playground.

And even better – the world is slowly realizing we are not fragile things. With the right equipment, we can do nearly any water activity able bodied people can do, it just may take a  bit more time. Here are three videos we’ve uncovered that exemplify this beautifully.

Video #1: How a Paraplegic Barefoot Water Skis

Mark “Animal” Turner, a grand champion in adapted waterskiing from Buda, Texas, is a favorite of ours here at SPINALedia. We first featured his amazing water skills in our blog last year, where he was doing one heckuva jump in a sit-ski, and now he’s at it again but this time without a sit-ski.

While skiing with friends in Austin, Texas last week, Mark, who’s a low level paraplegic, decided to do something no other paraplegic has done to his knowledge – barefoot skiing. Yup that’s right, the art of skiing without anything except your feet. And while Mark can’t move his feet at all, he’s managed to figure it out by using his shins and the tops of his feet.

After the boat takes off, Mark, while hanging onto a bar that’s hinged to the side of the boat, pulls himself up into position, puts his legs under him, and voila – he barefoot skis for about 20 seconds. Does it look fun? Yes absolutely, and where can I sign up!?

Watch: Simply barefootin it

Video #2: Custom Wetsuit Enables Quad to Swim Freely

Joe Stone has always been a fierce adventurer. A lover of the mountains and everything outdoors, that’s unfortunately how he was injured; while speed flying in Montana. Joe broke his C7 vertebrae, and has been unable to walk since.

Joe however is one very strong low-level quad. Before his injury he had dreams of one day completing an Ironman triathlon, and swim often. After his injury, he still wanted to swim but he got smart – he ordered a custom speed-enhancer wetsuit from Eco-Hydro (they take a whopping 20 measurements). This is a wetsuit only worn by paraplegic swimmers, but Joe wanted to see if he could use it too.

And success was had! He not only put the suit on himself, it helped him stay buoyant in an amazing way. Maybe this should become standard equipment in swimming rehab? I imagine it could help millions of people.

Watch: Gear Talk with Joe Stone: How does a quadriplegic swim?

Video #3: Jet Skiing in Agadir, Morocco

Our last video shows a typically standard water sport – jet skiing – but when you add-in the exotic location, Agadir, Morocco, it gets a bit more exciting. The video we uncovered features Olaf Cornelis, a paraplegic with a zest for life.

Olaf is the president of I’m Freee!! Traveling, a new nonprofit from Belgium that’s creating 100% accessible exotic locations for disabled travelers, and the first destination they are ready to offer as a package trip is Agadir.

In this video, he shows how a wheelchair-user goes jet skiing in Morocco, from the helpers on the beach who carry him to the jet ski to his aide riding with on the back for safety precautions.

Watch: Jetski & Quad Ride – I’m Freee!! Travelin

When you’re paralyzed, things can get difficult, there’s no question about it, but at least in the world of water, there’s a lot we can still do, and the extreme stuff is just the sweet-sweet gravy.

What crazy water sports have you gotten into post-injury?

Watch the videos!

Paraplegic “barefoot” water skiing with his shins

A very fit C7-8 quad shows how he swims better with a custom wetsuit

Paraplegic goes jet skiing in Morocco