When you experience a spinal cord injury, you constantly hear about what you will not be able to do anymore, and everything you have to give up on. According to that, as a wheelchair user diagnosed with quadriplegia, just a thought of paddling and kayaking would have to be completely insane. What reality is, that no one can know whether you can or can’t do something. You know best yourself, and regardless of the difficulties you’re experiencing, you are the one who has to fight for yourself and your dreams.

I always liked trying new things, and after the injury, when it became ten times harder to me to do anything, my adventurous spirit increased tenfold. I’ve never had experience in kayaking, so, I couldn’t even assume how my body would behave in a kayak, will I be able to sit in it and will I have the strength to paddle, but I knew that I will try.

Kayaking can be fully adapted. From the kayak itself, the seat, the backrest to the paddle. However, Richard (thanks to whom I tried something like this) and I have had only a good will and two regular kayaks. We decided to try kayaking on the lake because the water is calm, and it turned out that there is the perfect access to water. For sitting in a kayak I used gel-filled cushion(you can use your regular wheelchair cushion). It is really important to take care of how you sit, in order to avoid scratching or getting pressure sores. Due to the paralysis of my fingers, I used gloves so that I can hold the paddle. This is not the best solution for two reasons. The first one is that gloved hands slide down the paddle so you have to adjust them all the time (although that could be solved with duct tape), and the second is, that it’s not safe. If you fall into the water like that, you will not be able to swim, so do not use this method, unless someone will be with you. And the last thing, from the very beginning, is to use a life jacket.

I have to admit, there was a small dose of fear of falling into the water faster than I sat in the kayak, but after just a few seconds the fear was gone and and I began to enjoy a new experience. Although, I don’t know how different kayaking compares before my injury and now, it is certain that, no matter what, it has to have a very positive psychological and physical impact on people. With paddling you will strengthen the upper body, which will result in improving your balance and coordination. In addition, this activity provides  opportunities to experience the outdoors, master new skills and enjoy time together with family and friends.

This is a great way to spend your time, so don’t wait anything but nice weather to enjoy all the benefits of kayaking. I sincerely hope that this story will awake desire in someone else to try kayaking. At the same time, it would be wonderful if you share your kayaking impressions and experiences with me and other readers.

Until next post, don’t forget to live (not just survive) each day!

Thank you so much for reading! Tell me what you think in the comment section bellow.
Milica Knežević

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