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An Oar-some Summer Outdoors

Guest post from Gareth Herridge from Active Hands.

There are few things more enjoyable in life than getting outdoors on a warm summer day and doing something liberating. As a quad wheelchair user who lives in the UK, I am more than accustomed to waking up to the sound of wind and rain beating against the bedroom windows. On these days I know, when I go outside, it will be only a matter of seconds before the pushrims are slipping through my fingers and I’m battling just to push in a straight line across a flat pavement. Thus I am determined to make the most of the sunny weather whenever it comes around!

This could be by doing something as simple as sitting outside and listening to music; or it could be by doing something a little more adventurous

Getting Wet’n’Wild

As with many older towns, the town I live in was built on the banks of a river. As a child I remember numerous times when the river burst these banks and water would start spilling out onto the High Street. In the mid-90s, a barrage was built in order to control the flow of the water and prevent further floods. And with this came the construction of the Tees Barrage International White Water Centre!

Tees Barrage International White Water Centre
The centre offers an array of watersports including kayaking, canoeing, raft building and powerboating. It also has a climbing adventure course, as well as numerous nature trails. And after a redevelopment in 2011 added new features such as a canoe lift and supportive seating, the great thing is that many of these activities are now accessible to people with disabilities.

I have many fond summer memories as a child and young adult involving boating, body boarding and water based shenanigans. Initially, after my injury, I feared those days were behind me. Discovering this was not the case spurred me to try it out once again.

Getting into the boat is one thing however, holding the oars and pulling them through the water with virtually no grip is another thing entirely! And that is where Active Hands comes in…

An Accessible Solution

The General Purpose Gripping Aids are not just great for holding onto weights and gym equipment, they are also widely used in conjunction with sports apparatus, including boating oars. By slipping on the aids and tightening the velcro straps around the oars, I was able to pull them through the water and propel the canoe/kayak forwards; all the while maintaining a comfortable grip. Initially I had tried using cloth bandages to strap my hands to the oars; however these had a lot of give in them and kept coming loose every few pulls, much to my frustration. The difference now, when I use my Active Hands Aids, is genuinely staggering.

Our General Purpose gripping aids can help you hold your paddle

Sat in the supportive seat, my hands firmly gripping the oars, I am able to glide through the water unaided. There is something about doing this on a summer day that I cannot recommend enough. Even just pushing along the river bank on one of the nature trails feels both invigorating and relaxing. Whatever I choose to do, I know I’ll have fun and I know I’ll get a great workout. Having not been for the last few years, I can’t wait to get back and give it another go. And given the choice, I’m taking exercising outdoors in the sun over indoors surrounded by walls every time.

Boats and BBQs

There are centres similar to this one, all over the UK, wherever a body of water can be found. Whatever accessibility needs you may have, there should be professionals on hand to help you overcome them. So whether it’s canoeing, kayaking, rafting or rowing; why not throw on those sunglasses, grab those General Purpose Gripping Aids or the Kayak Adaptations and give it a go? You never know, you might take to it like… well, like a duck to water!

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You might become an expert kayaker

Finally, once you’ve worked up an appetite, what better way to finish off the day than with a barbecue! Fire up the charcoal, get the kitchen aids at the ready, and enjoy a burger and beer with friends. I recently filmed a barbecue cooking video that included cheeseburgers, chicken tikka skewers, Greek salad, and Eton mess dessert. Check out how I managed all that here and then give it a go yourself!

I hope your summer is awesome.

Gareth Herridge

22nd July 2022