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Fitness and Sports

Discover These Popular Adaptive Water Sports

Being on or in the water is a refreshing way to get some solid exercise and improve your quality of life. Dive in and explore some popular water sports and activities.

by: KMT May, 2021 5 min read

Water sports and other activities on the waves bring opportunities for a newfound sense of freedom. Water buoyancy and other unique factors make diving in fun!

Many people with a spinal cord injury enjoy adaptive water sports and aquatic activities. There are many reasons for this, such as connecting with nature, the social aspect and enjoying something new. Buoyancy is a particularly enjoyable aspect of water-based activities like swimming, scuba diving and snorkelling. Propelling yourself forwards in or under the water can provide a sense of newfound freedom and mobility that you can’t get on land.

Man in swimming pool by wheelchair

Adaptive water sports to try after a spinal cord injury

Fortunately, you have many options to choose from. Try some of these adaptive water sports and aquatic adventures to help keep you fit, healthy and enjoying life.

Swimming: Enjoy an invigorating workout that can help boost your flexibility, strength and stamina with less chance of an injury than other sports or exercises. Best of all, once you find a local pool, you just need a good pair of goggles and a swimsuit to participate. All pools are required to have disability access equipment, and lifeguards are trained in how to assist.

Scuba diving: If you want to experience real adventure, scuba diving offers a chance to experience an amazing underwater world. Many scuba centres offer travel packages, so you can see the world while experiencing these wonders. Diving is also a partner water sport, so you’ll be working with non-disabled people in a socially engaging team environment. Visit your local diving centre for lessons and certification, as well as help purchasing or renting equipment.

Snorkelling: If you’re not quite ready to dive deep into the water with scuba diving, snorkelling is a simpler way to enjoy the benefits of buoyancy. Although it doesn’t require as much gear as scuba, make sure that you visit your local diving shop for a quality mask, snorkel gear and fins, as well as classes and local or travel-destination opportunities. It’s also a good idea to practice in a pool before heading out to the open water.

Surfing: Adaptive surfing techniques and gear make it possible for you to hit the waves safely. Although you’ll likely need the help of carers and volunteers for each surfing excursion, the effort and an investment in an adaptive board are worth it. Surfing is an energising way to enjoy fun in the sun along with fitness benefits. Check local surfing clubs for adaptive equipment and assistive programmes. 

Water skiing: Relish in the fun and excitement of water skiing using adaptive equipment. Water skiing options include a sit-down ski or a single, wide ski with a metal cage attached. Work with your local club on equipment selection –outriggers, clamps and quad bags may be needed for added balance and safety.

Paddle sports: Kayaking, canoeing, rafting and paddle boarding are water sports that many with a spinal cord injury favour. Kayaks and canoes can be modified with adaptions such as special seating systems. Special hand adaption equipment also can help if you have weakness in your hand or wrist.

Dive right into your next adaptive water sport

Adding these adaptive water sports and other aquatic activities as part of your fitness routine can help you stay physically fit and socially engaged. Although some of these water activities require special equipment and assistance entering and exiting the water from carers or volunteers, you’ll likely find plenty of local resources willing to help.


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