Kayaking Gives Me Another Perspective in Life

In Sports, Wheelin' and Dealin' by Guest Contributor

Jamie is in her kayak

Jamie in her kayak

Editor’s Note: Jamie Perron loves Versa’s paddling when kayaking that she wrote her experience with it. Enjoy!


Kayaking is magically peaceful when gliding across the water surrounded by nature. There’s nothing else like it. Imagine never experiencing the joy of kayaking. People with disabilities, injuries and medical conditions are always able to enjoy the types of activities many able-bodied people do. The joy of kayaking has been one of those experiences unreachable, until now.

Pre Kayaking Days

My first 19 years of life in Vermont filled with school, friends and, yes, boys until one day my world flipped upside down. While driving home after school, I had a head on car crash.  I was airlifted to a hospital after rescuers used the jaws of life to free me.  The extremely long and painful story, cut short, is I am now a quadriplegic. I am completely paralyzed from the chest down. I cannot move my legs, my once dominant right arm is just about useless, and I am unable to use my fingers on either hand. Getting out and about can be difficult, but I have a wonderful support team, including my awesome parents.

Even though I am not able to do much physically I consider myself a pretty active person who is always willing to try something new. For example, I paint, I swim (with Cathy Webster, my Physical Therapist (PT) at The Rehab Gym), I play power soccer with The Vermont Chargers (part of the Vermont Northeast Disabled Athletic Association), and now I kayak!

Kayaking Modifications

My PTs and family have helped me gain movement and strength, and now, at age 36, they have helped me kayak! Cathy brought her personal kayak right into the pool and we figured out my modifications. The kayak has to have a specially made seat with a high back and lateral supports due to my limited trunk control, outriggers for stability, and a supported paddle because it is too heavy for me to pick up on my own. Cathy, my parents and others use a Hoyer Lift to move me from my power wheelchair to the kayak.

After numerous adjustments of the lateral supports, outriggers and pivoted paddle, they rolled me in the kayak into the water on a homemade dolly. I was finally off!

I instantly fell in love with kayaking. I am addicted to the feeling of floating and gliding across the water. I love
knowing fish are swimming below me and birds are flying above, nature all around. Despite my excitement, there were problems with my first few kayaking attempts. I was unable to paddle very far and I went slow because the muscles in my arms are weak. I’d also have to pick my arms way up in order to get each side of the paddle out of the water because the pivoted paddle I was using was straight. This back and forth movement caused me to start to tip over every time. Eventually, I would have to stop so my PT could push me back up.

Versa Kayaking Paddle

About two years ago, my experience with kayaking fundamentally changed for the better. My PT and I were
introduced to a new kayak paddling system by Meg Mcall, the founder of a company called Angle Oar
LLC.  Versa paddle is the company’s amazing kayaking equipment.

Versa is like a traditional straight kayak paddle and an angled paddle when in a downward position. Using it angled means I don’t need to pick my arms up as high to get the paddle blades out of the water. It’s more like pedaling a bike with your hands. Your arms and hands stay closer to your body, causing less rocking movement in the kayak overall. I no longer tip over! The paddle is on a mount that attaches to the kayak so I don’t have to support the actual weight of the paddle! It moves in every direction around a rotating head, which means I push one side forward or pull the other side back. Now I actually build up some speed and momentum and travel farther when I’m out kayaking!

I get to see things from a different perspective than I do on land in my wheelchair. I see blue herons, turtles
jumping off logs, fish swimming below my kayak, dragonflies landing on lily pads and the most gorgeous sunsets. I love how kayaking makes me feel grounded and calm, while feeling free and excited.
Kayaking is an experience I hope everyone takes the time to enjoy. With the Versa paddle even those with limitations can find that peaceful magic.


Into sports? Here’s a great article about an audacious athlete. https://www.audacitymagazine.com/ten-4-life-movement-with-jeremie-phe-phenom/

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