Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paddling Adaptations

We are gearing up for our summer paddling programs to start next week! A new purchase for canoeing this year is the Universal Paddling Seat from Creating Ability. We started using this seat for kayaking last year. Adjustable side bars are fantastic options for those who need torso support and can be removed individually for those who don't. The overall comfort and stability of this well designed seat inspired me to get some for canoeing as well.

The canoe version mounts on a conventional wooden canoe seat - there is no design yet for plastic molded canoe seats, though that may be in the works. The terrific advantage of the Universal Paddling Seat is that it enables someone who might otherwise be relegated to the "duff" position in the middle of the boat to sit on a seat and paddle in the proper position. It also offers reclined positions and shoulder support if the person in the bow is not paddling. The beauty of the seat design is that it can be adjusted easily to offer as much or as little support as needed by each individual paddler. We are looking forward to trying this out with program participants in July!

Often the most needed modification is assistance holding and using the paddle. We've been using Creating Ability's hand adaptations since last year as well. No more home-made hand supports using inner tubes and zip ties! The basic across-the-back-of-the-hand-grip works well for those who have some  hand function but need support to keep the hands on the paddle.  Hands slide in and are held in place comfortably and can be slid out with ease.
For those unable to grasp the paddle but have good arm function, Kevin Carr of Creating Ability offers a unique hand cuff that slides into an attachment on the paddle. Hands are held in place on the paddle even if fingers can't grip the bar and the arms can be used to propel. In the event of a capsize, it is simple to slide the cuff and therefore hands out of the paddle attachment. New this year, we are exploring Kevin's latest adaptation for one-armed paddling, called ProPel, using a similar cuff system mounted in the middle of the paddle. Kevin also suggests the ProPel can be used with canoe paddles. We'll try it out.

Recently, I happened upon an innovative one-armed paddle design for canoeing designed a few years back in Wisconsin by a professor of outdoor education at Northland College. View it on YouTube here. If you are interested in this item, contact

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