Surf, Sun, and Wheelchair Fun

Growing up in a time when the snowboard industry was exploding, surfing became a natural extension of that lifestyle during the summer. However, after my snowboard accident, it looked like my chances of catching that perfect wave were gone. I wasn't going to give up, though. I was determined to get back onto the slopes and into the ocean.

But going to the beach in a wheelchair isn't that easy. First, you need good friends to carry you through the soft sand – if you're lucky, you might have access to hard sand at low tide to roll onto. Then you need someone to get you into the water – ideally they will be with you in the water if you don't have anything to help you float for a long period. Personally, I like using a tube so I can swim into it when I get tired. If you get to enjoy the beach, it's because you have good people who care for you, but that is not always enough to keep you from seeing your limitations.

Genevieve being carried into the water

I had my first reality check when I went to Hawaii with my boyfriend and some of our very close friends. We got to the beach and set up our belongings in the sand. My friends placed me just beside my chair, then they all took a run into the waves and the warm water. It was so hard to watch that great moment go by and not be able to be part of it! I felt so helpless, I couldn't even move in the soft sand and tears welled up in my eyes. I'm not one to complain about my disability, but at that moment life felt unfair. After only a short while, though, my friends came back to take me with them into the water.

Living in Quebec, the closest place to go surfing is Maine in the United States. Over there the water is so cold you have to put a wetsuit on, which could be a sport in itself if you put it on by yourself like I do. Next, you'll need the right surfboard for your needs. There are many people adapting many different board types for wheelchair users, and thanks to the internet it's easy to find inspiration for making your own as well. Currently I'm using a short softboard (5'6"), as my legs keep moving apart in the water and I sometimes hit my chin on the board. When you're ready to go, you'll need your friend to spot you in the water, but you have to wait on the beach for your turn to set out.

During those moments – sitting on the beach ready in my wetsuit, seeing my boyfriend and my good friends in the lineup – I realized I would love to enjoy that exact moment in the water beside them, but it would not be safe for me in my condition. Instead I just relax and enjoy the sun until it's my turn to ride some waves. When I get out on the water and the wave hits, all my cares go away and I'm the happiest girl in the world! These experiences make me realize how lucky I am to have such great people in my life who care so much and with whom I have so much fun.

Genevieve and friends on the beach

I recently met Pascale Martineau, a great person from Quebec who is involved in growing adaptive surfing in Canada. She helped to build the first adaptive Canadian team, volunteered with the team at the second edition of the World Championship, and will be there next winter. Currently, she hopes for the sport to be featured at the Paralympics.

Learn More About Adaptive Surfing

If you're interested in talking more about surfing, here are some Facebook groups for adaptive surfing:

Also, for the past two years there has been a World Adaptive Surfing Championship in California, with the third edition happening in late November.

About the Author

Genevieve Halle

Genevieve Halle has been an athlete since the age of four. Initially a gymnast, snowboarding became her main focus in college. After earning her degree, Genevieve moved to Whistler, British Columbia to further her graphic design and snowboarding careers.

In March 2001, during qualifying for the U.S Open, Genevieve crashed and broke her T5 vertebra and dislodged T6 by a centimeter. In a seven-hour operation, doctors were able to repair the vertebrae.

After going through rehabilitation, Genevieve has returned to the slopes in a sit-ski, explored new adaptive sports like mountain biking, surfing, and paddleboarding, and tried new experiences like bungee jumping and skydiving!

Genevieve's ride is a Quickie 7R

Most of the stories here on RideQuickie were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.


Date: 9/19/2017 12:00:00 AM


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