From snow to water 

Adaptive sports program offers four summer courses

Learning kayak entries and exits are challenging enough for able-bodied people, but try doing it without leg power. That’s just what some physically disabled people will learn this summer when they sign up for kayaking lessons with Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP).

The non-profit group, known for getting physically and developmentally challenged athletes up on the mountains in the winter, will venture into summer sports this year, offering kayaking, canoeing, biking and hiking training.

Kayaking will be offered on Alta Lake in three, two-day workshops that being June 29 and spaced a month apart so novices have plenty of time to practice.

But WASP’s Chelsey Walker says Whistler sit-skier athletes should make a smooth transition to kayaking.

"Sit skiing is quite a similar feeling to being in a whitewater boat," Walker said, "there is quite a lot of skill crossover so we’re hoping to tap into that."

Six participants will progress through three sessions, which will build on skills learned from previous sessions and will be guided by four volunteers and two instructors, one of whom is paraplegic.

"We try to keep ratios low because there is a little bit more fitting that goes on with the equipment, or if we’re dealing with developmentally disabled they might have the balance but just need a bit more one-on-one from their guide or instructor," Walker said.

Whistler sit-skier Shona Burton is considering kayaking lessons so she can stay motivated and keep in shape in the snow-less months.

"Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated during the summer because it’s so nice out," Burton said. "It (kayaking) will totally get me back into doing more summer sports and stuff, which will be good," Burton said.

Two biking programs will be offered, one for those with cognitive or developmental disabilities, another hand-cycling program for paraplegics and high functioning quadriplegics.

"Each program has different limitations as to who it can serve," Walker said. "A hiking program, that’s not going to work as well for someone who is a quadriplegic, however you can still do a lot of biking and put interpretive information into what you’re doing so it’s a lot like hiking."

WASP receives funding from the Community Foundation of Whistler and is approaching other sources for funding for the adaptive summer program.

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