I started prone paddle boarding about four months ago. As a disabled person, being out on the water is a time of freedom from my handicap. I’ve only been out on the board seven times so far but I think i’m hooked. It’s challenging enough to keep me interested without the frustration of limitations.
My disability, multiple sclerosis, affects my body primarily through my legs and thinking ability. I can walk short distances with a walker but my legs are weak. Temperature changes and over-exertion effect me sometimes hours or days after the occurrence. Therefore I tend to be cautious about long workouts. Since I’m not fighting to make my legs work, paddle boarding allows me to increase the duration of my workouts.
The biggest logistical problem is finding help to get me in the water. Walking on sand may seem nice to some people but for be it’s quicksand and my feet feel like they weigh 50 lbs. They make water wheelchairs and those can be useful if you have a big truck and help to get you in and out of it but for me the easiest way if I only have one helper is to walk in holding on to the arms of a friend that is walking backwards in front of me.
Getting out is another story. I tend to just scoot backwards on my butt until it’s shallow enough for someone to pull me up to standing. Then if my walker is parked close by I can slowly inch my way through the sand. The walker doesn’t roll in the sand so I have to pick it up and move it forward before I take a step. This technique can cause accumulation of sand in your clothes and shoes so I’ve started wearing bicycle type shorts and closed water shoes. That keeps the sand collection to a minimum.
Each time I’ve gone out on a board, I’ve learned something new. I’ve discovered the imbalances in my muscles so now I am focusing on how to correct that and improve all aspects of my life. My fear and ignorance of the ocean is decreasing. I’m learning new ways to get in the water and on the board.
I’ve also been motivated to get stronger so I can paddle better. I’ve been working on my swimming skills, balance and arm strength. Sure, I could have done those things without paddle boarding but I needed the boost of wanting to participate in the sport.
Right now I’m borrowing a board that was modified for someone else and while it’s great to practice on, eventually I will get a customized board of my own. I had to use the wrong board a few times to figure out what I need. My hope is that with the right board, I’ll be able to go farther and longer than I can right now.
As you can see from the photo, handles have been added to the sides which allows me to load onto the board from the back and pull myself forward. This board also has a chest pad and chin block. I’ve played around with these and haven’t really found them to be that helpful for my particular disability.
Every person’s disability is different and it’s great to learn from other’s discoveries and mistakes but ultimately for things to work as smoothly as possible, you just have to get out and experiment for yourself.