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Adaptive Rafting in Oregon

Friday, June 15, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Chris Stec
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Adaptive Paddling Workshop: Raft Specific
June 1-3, 2018
Eugene Oregon


By ACA staffer Marcel Bieg

Learning to guide a whitewater raft is an empowering experience. Just imagine how great you would feel safely running your friends down a river and providing them with so much fun and long-lasting memories. We at the ACA believe in empowering our students through the freedom of paddlesports regardless of the type of person wanting to learn. We had the recent fortune of training a crew of instructors to build adaptations for students with physical disabilities that focused not on being a passive passenger, but rather, performance, safety and function that would eventually allowing them to guide the raft alone.  

On June 1 through 3 the City of Eugene River House Program took part in an American Canoe Association (ACA) Adaptive Paddling Workshop (APW). The workshop was funded through a grant focusing on spinal cord injuries from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation and was offered in collaboration with Adaptive Expeditions and NRS. The purpose of the course was to teach paddlesports instructors techniques to seamlessly integrate students with physical disabilities into everyday paddlesports programs. A unique point of this APW was that whitewater rafts, not rec kayaks would be used as the craft of choice. We had theorized that rafts would be an excellent option for teaching to students with disabilities, but we did not know to what extent.

The Instructors spent 2 full days learning about the history, the ADA, understanding the various types of disabilities and learning techniques and points to building adaptations for students with disabilities. On the final day several students joined the instructors and took part in building high performance adaptations that allowed each of them to guide the raft, either with oars or as a paddle boat captain. The process culminated with on water time to test the builds in a real-life environment. Safety, rescue and rafting techniques were all taught as well as each participant having to pass the ACA Essential Eligibility Criteria at each milestone along the way. The result was smiles, empowerment and the opportunity to provide a wider range of students access to paddlesports. 


Each student left with the urge to go rafting on a river and learn to take their friends out into the field. As mentioned above, this was the first time the ACA or Adaptive Expeditions has offered an APW that focused specifically on Rafts and thus there were several unknowns. Fortunately, not only did the adaptations work, they provided participants the opportunity to truly feel empowered and allowed each of them to see into a bigger, more fun and adventurous future.


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Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration and recreation.

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