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  • Meg McCall

Adaptive Kayaking: Learning to Paddle with Apraxia

What do you get when you combine someone with the training discipline of an Olympic hopeful with someone who has difficulty performing basic movements when asked? You get a person with the guts and drive like Jay, a 38-year old from Vermont, who has been learning to kayak.

When he was 16, Jay was a talented ski racer, an Olympic hopeful, in fact, before surgerical complications from a benign adrenal tumor excision snatched those dreams away.

Twenty-two years later, Jay has been putting his energies into learning to kayak with the help of the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association and our talented adaptive kayaking instructor and colleague, Cathy Webster.

Jay has visual impairments, motor processing delays and severe spasticity in all of his extremities. In addition, Jay has Apraxia, a motor disorder caused by damage to the brain in which the person has difficulty processing the motor planning steps involved with performing a task or movement.

So, not only does Jay have to conquer the physical challenges that make it difficult to maneuver a paddle, he also has to surmount the hurdles associated with having Apraxia. “Jay is very motivated and once he puts he mind to it, he works very hard. His concentration is palpable,” notes Cathy.

For two seasons, now, Jay has been working at it. Using our Versa Paddle and other adaptive paddling equipment, Cathy has been providing literal hands-on guidance to Jay as he strengthens his skills. It has taken time, patience and practice, but this summer Jay was able to paddle independently for the first time, with only some minor directional and technique cues from Cathy.

Like so many of our customers, Jay exemplifies the tenacity and determination that we genuinely admire.


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