Snorkeling For People With Physical Disabilities
Swimming at the Manoa Pool with AccesSurf
I wanted to share some info about snorkeling for people with physical disabilities. I had a spinal cord injury a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that I think I am one of the first 100 paraplegics on earth to qualify for a dive card.
I absolutely love the water. I moved to Oahu just so I could spend more time in it. Well, also so I could play more Hawaiian music, but that is another topic all together.
Here is how I get out of the wheelchair and into the ocean. Because I have developed my upper body strength, I am able to look around any beach, find two people with athletic bodies, and convince them to do a fireman's carry from where I leave my wheelchair to where I can start swimming. The reverse process is usually done with the help of my wife, who recruits two more volunteers to go down to the water and help me up the beach to my chair.
A better method is to find a beach where I can check out a beach chair with huge inflated tires that lets my wife help me get down to the water in a less gymnastic way. Getting more of these sand vehicles available to the public is my current mission. I am working right now on getting one at the Surf Center in Haleiwa.
For snorkeling, I used to use webbed neoprene gloves to help give me more power in the water. They interfered with using my hands to adjust my equipment, so now I use swimmers training paddles that hang off my wrists with a silicone rubber tubing when I want to use my fingers to fiddle with my mask or snorkel, or to grab my GoPro to film fish or my friends.
I mostly use a breast stroke, for snorkeling above the reef, and for diving down below the surface to get a better look. If I really want to go fast, I use a freestyle or crawl stroke, but that uses up more energy. I also have developed a sculling motion, where I move the paddles gently back and forth next to my hips, kind of like a fish might use their side fins to cruise slowly around the reef.
As you can probably tell by now, I am very much at home in the water, where gravity is not so much a problem as it is on land.
If you want to know more about snorkeling for people with physical disabilities, comment on this story.