Adventure sports for people with disabilities was once confined to relatively safe options. Indifference to insurance considerations and public expectations, a disabled athlete was offered anything from an afternoon spent strapped to an inflated banana to a being led around on a docile pony. There is, of course, nothing wrong with either of these pastimes and we pay homage to the joy they might bring to many. But for the more adventurous, who seek that unique adrenalin rush and strive to reach the higher peaks, the desire is no different than for the more able bodied among us. Thankfully, the adventure sport options now on offer are many and varied.
Wexford woman, Edel Reck was one of the stars of RTE‘s ‘Two for the Road ‘programme, which matched an able bodied celebrity with a disabled person and sent them off to take part in extreme adventure sports together. Edel has Spina Bifida and it was the perfect role for her as she enjoys skydiving, ice-climbing, white water rafting, hot-air ballooning, wild camping, on safari and skiing. Phew! For the television series she chose mountain biking. “It’s adaptive biking,” Reck explains. “There are three types of adaptive biking – downhill, off-road and hand-cycling – where you propel the bike, and gravity does all the work. Off-road is the most difficult.” But in an interview with the Irish Times she revealed her favourite sport is adaptive skiing. “It’s a bi-ski. A bit like a wheelchair minus the wheels; a kind of a bucket seat. There are two skis under the chair and you use poles.” While most of Edel’s awesome adventuring has been done abroad, there is still plenty of opportunity to have unusual sports experiences here.
Persons with disability can now take part in all kinds of sports including kayaking, sky diving, mountain biking and rock climbing. When we consider that all public spaces must now be wheelchair accessible, it is just a small hop, skip and jump or a few feet in a wheelchair to make any sporting business all inclusive. Stand up Paddling is also very accessible with many companies offering the sport on both sea and lake. Archery is also available, fun and strangely addictive. For the more adventurous there is always a chance to fling yourself out of an aeroplane. Sure, why not? www.skydive.ie are among the many fearless daredevils who will facilitate you.
Another intrepid adventurer is Donegal’s own, Nikki Bradley. Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer at sixteen, Nikki is an adapted adventurer and motivational speaker. A fitness enthusiast with a special interest in adapted training Nikki has been informed by her consultant that she is currently one of less than ten people worldwide, to have lived through her condition. But she doesn’t just live it, she celebrates life! In 2013 Nikki set up a fitness based awareness campaign called Fighting Fit For Ewing’s where she regularly partakes in physical challenges to highlight the importance of exercise for rehabilitation. Some past challenges include travelling to Iceland in February 2016 to scale the Sólheimajökull glacier on crutches, attempting a Guinness World Record in Holland to become the fastest woman to complete a 5k on crutches and abseiling off the Fanad. She has completed the Fan Dance on crutches- a 24km trek through the Brecon Beacons in Wales. A gruelling march usually reserved for the British Special Forces. No set-backs for this inspiring lady. Read more here:
Not everyone is ready for such extremes. For those looking for a good ‘jumping off point’ for their own personal adventure, Awesome Walls in Dublin and Cork offer training, on an individual and pre-arranged basis, for people with disabilities. Climbing in their indoor facilities is a great start to gaining experience and confidence before heading to the great outdoors. Check out The Adventure Project and Climbing Dojo , who also welcome people of all abilities.
Iain Miller of Unique Ascent is an experienced mountaineer, rock climber, a skilled guide and a patient instructor. His extensive and unique knowledge of rural, upland and coastal Donegal allowed him to author the current Rock Climbing in Donegal 2015 guidebook. He has made over 1000 first ascents of previously un-climbed sea stacks, sea cliffs and rock faces in both Ireland and Scotland. While catering for participants at all levels of experience and keeping safety at the forefront of all activities. Unique Ascent offers incredible experiences for all adventure enthusiasts. “It is a very personal experiences for both the participant and the provider, for those considered completely able bodied or for those who face extra challenges. Safety is a priority and there is always a first contact filled with trepidation and great concern”.
“We specialise in a holistic approach to learning and teaching to ensure that everyone receives the maximum and most rewarding learning experience during their courses and holidays with us. If it is feasible that we can work together, then the sky is the limit.” Iain Miller
At Outdoor Adventure Store we raise a quiet salute to the determined and optimistic individuals, who face the challenges of disability every day, but are still up for the added thrill of adventure sports.