I first read about kayaking for people with disabilities in a Toronto Harbourfront events program brochure. Kayaking was something I always wanted to do but did not know how to go about doing it with a significant disability. Kayaking sessions were being offered through Abilities in Motion. So I contacted that organisation and received a very pleasant and enthusiastic response from the program coordinator, Pauline Halstead. Pauline quickly set a first kayaking session with me despite the fact that I went over my difficulties with her which involve using a wheelchair as well as having upper body limitations. When I had to fill out for Abilities in Motion information about myself as well as the course name I was signing up for, Pauline told me I can call the course “Paddle with Love”. And what a day of love, excitement, fun and encouragement my first kayaking course or session turned out to be!
At the Harbourfront the dock assistants used a manual lift to lower me into the kayak and Pauline and the other assistants placed extra supportive cushions around the seat and sides of the boat to help me sit and keep an upright position. Pauline then attached lightweight paddles in front of me with rope so that they would not slip away from me. She also rigged her boat to mine so we could travel together and off we went! I felt like I was floating in the water with great speed. Pauline instructed me on the proper use of the paddles. It was so much fun! We went around the Harbourfont and even under a dark overpass tunnel.
I felt my dream of kayaking on my own come true. I definitely recommend this paddle of love course to anyone with a disability wishing to experience the freedom of motion in the water and independence in sport.
For more information on accessible kayaking and canoeing, programs refer to Abilities in Motion.