Tag Archives: quadriplegic swimming

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

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