39EGYTtHRxIslKLPambXIVQ5uLXLWoflphZUrGfi7JY Angle Oar Adaptive Kayaking Equipment page contents E1238296C9AB2A3A16BD08114EFAF308

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adaptive paddling

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more and more adaptive kayaking programs, physical therapists and parks programs across the country are using our adaptive kayak equipment to increase people's independence and get them out on the water.  this page highlights a number of those organizations and shows examples of their adapted kayak efforts. if you have photos or info you'd like to share, please contact us at info@angleoar.com


Spinal Cord Injury, Paralysis or Quadriplegia

Balance or coordination problems


Use of one arm/limb

Arthritis of the neck, back, shoulders and hands

 Had a stroke

Muscular Dystrophy

Cerebral Palsy

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome


Cognitive disabilities


Spina Bifida

Limited mobility or range of motion

Shoulder surgeries, upper extremity (UE) fractures 

Wrist, elbow or shoulder tendonitis


Ability 360

Adaptive Adventures

Adaptive Sports Foundation

Adventures Without Limits

Burke Rehab Hospital

Cal Poly Adaptive Paddling Program

Cleveland Metro Parks

Craig Hospital Therapeutic Recreation
Daring Adventures

Environmental Travelling Companions

Florida Alliance for Assistive Services &   


Florida Outdoors Disabled Association

Kieran Broome Occupational Therapist

Kentwood, MI Parks & Recreation


LoCo 'Yaks

Move United (formerly DSUSA)

New England Disabled Sports 

Northeast Disabled Athletic Association

Northern West Virginia Center for

  Independent Living

Oceans of Hope Foundation

Oregon Adaptive Sports

Outdoors For All

PA Center for Adapted Sports

Patriot Point

Selkie Adaptive Paddle

Upstate Cerebral Palsy

VA Puget Sound Health

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center

And More

2021 Adaptive Kayaking



What is adaptive kayaking?

Adaptive kayaking is simply the process of making adjustments to a kayak and/or kayak gear so that someone who might not normally be able to kayak can do so safely. These might be people with disabilities, those with certain health conditions (e.g., asthma, arthritis), paddlers with injuries (e.g., torn rotator cuff), or people who lack the strength. mobility or coordination to use a traditional kayak and paddle. The adjustments can range from simple to complex. One easy "adaptation" is inserting foam padding to provide additional support to the paddler or prevent skin chafing. Or, adaptations might entail using special transporting devices (e.g., a patient lift, cart or transfer bench) and specialized paddling equipment, such as the Versa Paddle or outriggers. Adaptive kayaking is often, but not always, done within the context of some type of program or oversight. Non-profits, veterans groups, parks and recreation departments, recreational therapy programs and many others sponsor such programs. Two key components of these programs are having trainers and/or volunteers who are certified in adaptive kayaking and a set of specific safety measures in place.

What types of adapted kayaking programs are there?

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of adaptive paddling programs throughout the world. Their focus and purpose varies from group to group, but some of the most popular types are:

  • Community-based and non-profit programs that seek to give people with disabilities or others with special needs the opportunity to recreate
  • Veterans programs that aim to provide military personnel (with and without injuries or disabilities) access to the transformational powers of nature and paddling
  • Recreational and physical therapists - both through organizations and individually -- who think kayaking may help in rehab and/or simply provide a positive recreational outlet for a client
  • Kayak rental businesses, outfitters and paddling clubs all over the world
  • Some universities and higher education organization also participate in adaptive paddling, whether through research or hands-on learning opportunities (e.g., student workshops associated with engineering or kinesiology departments)
  • Parks and recreation departments that offer summer programming or camps to children and adults
  • State and federal parks programs that seek to provide accessible kayaking opportunities for visitors
  • And then there are the thousands of individuals and families who have the desire to participate in kayaking. These might be experienced paddlers facing age-related challenges (e.g., arthritis, limited mobility), injuries (e.g., torn rotator cuff) or cognitive or coordination issues (e.g., children with Autism).

Is there a formal training program to become a certified adaptive kayaking instructor?

Yes. The American Canoe Association (ACA) periodically offers adaptive paddling workshops which offer certificates of completion to participants.The ACA also offers a wide range of general kayak instruction training and certifications. You can find a list of certified adaptive kayaking instructors on their website. In some cases, adaptive program instructors may have a background in physical or recreational therapy or in working with people with disabilities, which gives them a fuller understanding of what types of adaptations can be done for various functional limitations. If you would like a referral or recommendation for someone who may help as you develop your own program, please reach out to info@angleoar.com

What is adaptive paddling?

Adaptive paddling is the general term used to describe the practice of adapting any form of watercraft (e.g., canoe, kayak, SUP) that can be propelled with a paddle so that someone who might not normally be able to maneuver the vessel can do so safely. This might be a person with a spinal cord injury, someone who is blind, a veteran with a missing limb, or people with disabilities, injuries or insufficient strength, mobility or coordination to paddle.

The adaptations can range from simple to complex. For instance, a blind kayaker may only need pieces of tape added to their paddle so they can gauge hand placement and know which is the top side of the paddle versus the bottom. They would, in most scenarios, also have a paddling companion assisting with verbal directional cues and safety.

A more complex adaptation might be adding outriggers and special seating, or even their own wheelchair, to a standup paddleboard so that someone with paraplegia or limited trunk control can sit and paddle.

Sometimes, the phrase “universal paddling” or “accessible paddling” is used in place adaptive paddling. Dragon boats, surfboards, some outriggers, rafts and other paddle-driven watercraft often also fall into this category.

Adaptive kayaking is a subset of adaptive paddling, but the terms are often used interchangeably when referring to kayaking.

What is an adapted kayak paddle?

The term adapted kayak paddle is a general phrase used to describe a range of possible modifications that will enable a person to effectively propel a kayak with a paddle. Just like with adaptive paddling overall, the adaptations range from fairly easy to very sophisticated. For paddlers with shoulder injuries or joint problems, the “adaptation” may simply be using a more lightweight carbon fiber paddle or learning a different paddling technique or stroke.

For someone with limited hand flexion or grip strength, hand grips (manufactured or DIY) can be added to the paddle shaft so that it can be maneuvered by the user without having to grip the paddle.

Experienced kayakers, including many older adults, find that arthritis or shoulder problems prevent them from continuing the sport they love so they make the transition to a mounted-paddle holder, like our Gamut. They benefit from the "weightlessness" of the having the mount but can continue to use their own preferred paddle.

If a paddler has poor coordination or limited strength due to Cerebral Palsy, for example, they can try a mount-supported paddle. Mounted paddles have the benefit of bearing the weight of the paddle, thereby reducing joint stress and requiring less strength. In the case of our Versa Paddle, the paddle itself can be angled downward on both sides so that if a paddler has quadriplegia, for instance, they can use whatever mobility they do have to gently “pedal” the paddle without having to raise either arm. This feature is also helpful for paddlers with only one limb who want to protect the range of motion in their functioning limb.

There are a handful of manufactured products like those described above available on the market, but there is also an array of DIY devices that industrious paddlers and organizations have created. Those include foot-propelled paddling devices, paddle blades that attach directly to someone's hands, and a canoe paddle for people with one arm.



Though Angle Oar offers several critical adaptive paddling products, we don't carry all the items you might need to adapt your kayak. We have identified several high-quality manufacturers of various items at right.



If you're a paddler with a significant disability and would like to talk with a trained professional about whether adaptive kayaking might be a good fit for you, what equipment you might need, and how to get started, you can now book a consultation with us. We have a number of certified adaptive paddling instructors available, some with extensive primary training as physical therapists, who have a solid understanding of both human physiology and adaptive kayaking.

Please Note: If you have a standard product question about whether our products might work for you or a loved one, or are making an initial inquiry, please reach out any time. There is absolutely no cost, and we are happy to help answer any questions. These consultations are generally for paddlers with unique or complex disabilities who may need more sophisticated adaptations.



Request a consultation by clicking the adjacent Book Now button.

Decide what you can afford to pay and go through checkout. Your contribution is used to cover the cost of our colleagues' time. 

One of our adaptive instructors will reach out to you via phone to learn about your interests, needs and unique requirements. He or she may ask for some video footage for further analysis. The consultation will culiminate in a recommendation of adaptive products, if applicable. You are under no obligation to make any purchase. 


If you end up purchasing a Versa Paddle, Gamut Paddle Holder and/or Outriggers from us here at Angle Oar, we'll discount your purchase by your contribution amount, up to $50.






San Luis Obispo, CA


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