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Adaptive Waterskiing

by Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OTR, ATP

Its the good ole' summertime and thoughts often turn to getting away from the heat. What could be cooler than water and breezes? Does that make you think of waterskiing?

WheelchairNet recently heard from Donna Mae Wilson in Morganton, North Carolina. She said,

"We are looking for someone who builds, designs, manufactures adaptive skis for water skiing. We located a person who has one in South Carolina and they came and trained us last year. But he builds his own and we are looking for companies who would build one for us. We did a skiing weekend for the wheelchair-using folks here at our center and for folks in the community. Now we are trying to put together our own equipment to make these weekend available throughout the summer. Can anyone help locate a distributor of Water skis with a cage for the disabled???"

Having participated in adaptive waterskiing events in the past, I knew that sit-down water ski products existed. I did some searching on the web and came up with not much. Invacare makes something called the "Wake Jammer" but... Invacare's WWW page says "call the company" and the product is not pictured. So I made some inquiries by email.

I heard first from Mindy Whiteside, a recreation therapist at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She told me that as she knew there are no water-skis being manufactured at this time. She said:

Rumor has it that the company that produces the water-skis and the company that produces the seat that mounts on the ski (that people sit in) are going through a legal battle over patents. In the meantime all production has stopped. Her center bought the last 2 sit skis made. My best advice is to contact your local wheelchair vendor and they may have information on used equipment. I would also keep your eyes open when looking through Sports n' Spokes Magazine because in the back of the Magazine at times there are ads put in by people selling their old skis.

Al Kaye, a recreational therapist at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee also provided some information about the current status of water sit-skis. He said:

The two major makers are not producing water skies so the market is open. The largest dealer, Sunrise Medical, is having difficulty with the ski manufacturer, (O'Brien). Sunrise still makes a seating system which several ski groups are adapting to fit on Wakeboards. Sunrise hopes to have a new contract worked out for next season. This information was current as of June 2000. If you go this route, the most common size seat widths are 14" - 17" which cost about $500 per seat. Then you need to get a wake board that has a rounded edge. The width of the seat should not be more than 30% of the width of the board. Set up the seat so that it is 1" forward of center of the board (the O'Brien Evil Twin works).

Al also mentioned some active adaptive water ski programs in the Southeastern Region of the United States:

  • AHOY in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama - search on this program at the Healthsouth corporate site.
  • Camp ASCA (Easter Seals in Alabama)
  • Charlotte Rehab Institute, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • SPARKS in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Mike Sells, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Patricia Neal Rehab Center in Knoxville, Tennessee at (865)541-1353
  • Kawasaki has a grant program in which they have a crew that will go across the country with a demonstration clinic to teach adaptive water skiing and jet skiing. It is operated through the Tahoe Adaptive Recreation Program in California.

You may also get some information from:

If you would like to contribute your ideas or add your waterskiing information, click on the WheelchairNet Discussion Area to and post your message for other to read there.

Back to Sports and Recreation

Last Updated: 3-2-2006

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Please note this information is provided a archival information from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wheeled Mobility from 1993 to 2002.