Antelope Point Marina will host an adaptive watersports program at Lake Powell on Oct. 7-8 organized by Arizona Adaptive Watersports. The nonprofit organization offers adaptive waterskiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, tubing and kayaking for children and adults with physical, neurological and intellectual disabilities.
The program will be run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, operating out of Antelope Point Marina. Participants will be taken from there to Warm Creek for a day of adaptive watersports.
Arizona Adaptive Watersports’ vision is “for anyone with a disability to have access to get on the water and embrace the freedom and adventure that awaits.” The group is based near Prescott, but its home lake is Bartlett Lake Marina in Carefree, Arizona.
Jo Crawford, the organization’s executive director, said they do adaptive watersports for children 3 years and up, as well as for adults. Last year, their oldest participant was an 86-year-old with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“We do all neurological, physical and developmental disabilities, as well as intellectual, so we serve those with autism and that kind of thing,” Crawford said.
“We have specialized equipment which allows people who can’t stand up to ski to be able to sit down to ski. We have trained coaches. Our boat drivers have to be trained on pulling people with disabilities. And then we have a safety team as well. To put it in perspective, to take one person water skiing takes about 12 volunteers.”
She said she started Arizona Adaptive Watersports after working with an organization in the Valley that had done a similar type of programming but was only able to do it a few days out of the year.
“It was so popular, and the lines were so long, that we recognized that Arizona had a need to provide this more than just a few days out of the year. So, the owner of Bartlett Lake Marina had been wanting us to launch out for a long time and to start this nonprofit,” Crawford said.
A recent grant from Move United allowed the organization to acquire additional adaptive equipment as well as a trailer, which means they can be more mobile and hit the smaller markets for people who don’t have the financial resources to travel to Carefree or who are physically unable to make the drive.
“Now we’re at Lake Havasu in April, and then we’re finishing off the year at Lake Powell for the very first time, which we couldn’t have done without this trailer and the adaptive equipment that the grant allowed us to purchase,” Crawford said.
She said the program allows for one family member to accompany the athlete. Additional people to come along for a small added fee.
“If the family wants to go tubing with their loved one, they can,” she said. “This really brings families together so they can be on the ski boats to take pictures of their loved one and their athlete skiing and trying these adventurous sports for the first time.”
Crawford stressed that watersports are not just for young people.
“I really want people to know that it’s just as important that a 75-year-old stroke survivor go play as it is a 6-year-old with spina bifida. If not so, more important,” she said, adding that studies have indicated that 70% of people who participate in the program initiate doing something new with their life afterward.
“A person comes back and they’re like, ‘I went waterskiing behind a boat and navigated things I’ve never done before, of course I can go back to school now, of course I can start doing adaptive driving, of course I’m going to ask that girl on a date now,’” she said.
“You do something that’s maybe a little scary – rock climbing, mountain biking, whatever – and then you’re just like, ‘OK, I’ve got some courage now, what else can I do? It’s time for a new chapter of funness.’”
Crawford added that “fear is a liar” that keeps people from doing a lot of living in their lives, including people with disabilities and family members who might be a little concerned.
“Even if they’re concerned about what might happen, come on out and just check it out. You don’t have to sign up, but you want to come see what it’s like and then decide,” she said.
“Don’t automatically say, ‘No I’m not going to go because I don’t know what it’s about.’ Just come out and see it, and then decide.”
The fee for the Lake Powell program is $125 per participant with one additional person, and each additional person after that is $25. Preregister at www.azadaptivewatersports.org, or call 602-228-3660 or email [email protected] for more information.