Embrace Adaptation

Upon renting the board and paddle for the video, French discovered the paddle was adjustable, which meant the twisting mechanism that locked the two pieces of the paddle shaft was not allowing his prosthetic tube device to slide along the paddle as required during his stroke.

This small difference in equipment, that others may never notice, became a large hindrance for French. It is now known that a one-piece paddle or a two-piece button-locking paddle works best with this prosthetic.

The tube on the end of the prosthesis allows Larry to use the kayak paddle with ease.

Regardless of physical limitations or mobility restrictions, French is proof that most anyone can get out on the water for multiple recreational activities, often with only minor adaptations. It is also evident that opening recreational opportunities up to all is achievable.

With some creative thinking, planning, and a fresh perspective, public recreational facilities and parks can become more user-friendly to youth, senior citizens, and those with limitations.

“You need people like Terry Hobbs to show an interest and take you under their wing,” French says.

Learn How To Adapt

Since his encounter with French, Hobbs has since been approached by Dan Doyle, who is without a leg, and whose needs are much different than French’s.

In continuing to help people achieve mobility, Hobbs has adopted three kayak-adaptation principles:

1. Outfit the kayak for optimal safety and mobility

2. Provide stable seating

3. Ensure skin protection.

When it comes to equipping the paddler, the proper personal flotation device (PFD) needs to be selected based on the paddler.

Additionally, the safest kayak needs to be selected, whether it’s a sit-on-top or a sit-in. A sit-on-top is easier to get in, while a sit-in is somewhat more challenging but often preferred. The paddle length and type must be determined and, finally, the prosthesis may need to be modified.

For Doyle, a sit-on-top kayak was selected with a larger PFD. He also needed a pad for his remaining limb to assist his paddling. Since balance was a challenge when transferring from land to the boat, a strap was also attached to the kayak handle.

Larry enjoys a peaceful trek in his kayak.

Doyle also added a flotation device to his prosthesis in case he needed to remove it for any reason. Since making these modifications, Doyle has recently completed a 3-hour tour of Upper Tampa Bay and Safety Harbor.

“People with limitations vary even with the same limitations. Each has their own personal requirements; therefore, the kayak and paddle has to be modified to handle these differences to ensure safety for the paddler,” Hobbs notes.

“Persons with spinal injury need seating that will not pinch bones to the skin, cutting off blood supply as they cannot feel their lower extremities. Larry and Dan have different requirements, but they can paddle together in a common environment.”

Boundless recreational opportunities are where you least expect to find them. French found his while visiting Safety Harbor Marina, and Hobbs found a unique opportunity to teach his passion—kayaking. Together, they found a way to help make public parks and recreation more accessible to everyone.

To see French in action, visit www.severnkayaking.com and click the link to “Larry the Paddler” or “Recreational Prosthetic Devices with Larry.”

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