Adaptive Water Skiing for Wheelchair Users

Do you enjoy feeling an adrenaline rush and the wind in your face? If you’re looking for an exciting and adventurous way to cool off during the summer, while also getting exercise, water skiing is an excellent option. Water skiing has been adapted so that skiers of all abilities can participate. All you need is a body of water than can accommodate a high-speed boat.

There are various options for adaptable equipment that make the sport accessible to all, including sit-skis, shoulder slings and outriggers. However, many arm and leg amputees use the same equipment as able-bodied athletes. The availability of adaptive equipment allows people of all ages and abilities to experience this fast-paced sport.

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Water Skiing Fundamentals for Wheelchair Users

Before starting lessons, interested athletes are checked by trained volunteers who evaluate the athlete’s strength, mobility, and balance to determine which equipment will best suit their individual needs. The volunteer will also discuss the student’s goals and any potential markers that might be indicated on their information sheet, including medications, surgeries or allergies.

Water skiing is an attractive sport because of the independence that it allows and how easy it is to learn. After taking a few lessons and getting the basics down, water skiers can continue to participate along with their friends and family.

It is important to learn and practice safe habits when water skiing. The participant must be able to turn over in the water from face down to face up. Wearing a life vest or Personal Flotation Device (PFD) should aid the skier in turning over.

Adaptive Equipment for Water Skiing

Sit skis are a type of adaptive equipment for athletes with spinal cord injuries or other disabilities that prevent them from standing up. Skiers sit in the seat or cage fastened to the top, which allows them to remain in seated position. Some sit skis also have a cleat that holds the rope, known as a starting block, for those who may experience trouble gripping. Sit skis come in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, with the more noticeable difference being the width of the skis. Other differences include material, amount of concave and type of edges.

Another type of adaptive equipment for water skiing is an arm sling. The arm sling is a modified handle that fits into a harness, which is worn much like a life jacket around the skier’s shoulders. This is meant to help those who experience trouble gripping the tow rope with one arm. The design of the arm sling allows for safety, preventing any drag if the athlete falls.

Different Types of Water Skiing Competitions

There are different types of water skiing competitions in which interested athletes can participate. One of them is the Slalom, an 800-foot-long course. This competition consists of the skier going around six offset buoys while being towed by the boat. The boat’s speed is increased by two miles per hour each time the skier completes the course. This continues until the maximum speed is reached. From there, the skier’s rope length is shortened by predetermined increments. Skiers continue until they fall or do not go around a buoy.

Another action-packed competition for daring athletes is known as the jump. The participant skis over a 22-foot-long and 14-foot-wide ramp. Skiers select the desired ramp height, between one meter, 1.25 meters, and 1.5 meters. In jump competitions, they try to go the farthest distance possible in the air and ski away.

For more information on adaptive water skiing for wheelchair users, check out the Disabled Sports USA website.