Wheels To Water provides life-changing experiences to people with disabilities through adaptive kayaking trips. By getting out of a wheelchair or other mobility device and onto the water, individuals are immersed in a sense of freedom and empowerment. The ability for people with even the most extreme disabilities to propel themselves in the same manner as anyone else serves as an equalizer rarely experienced in everyday life.
The paddler above is a C6 quadriplegic with little grip in his hands... with an adapted kayak and paddle, he can safely maneuver through the water with ease.
Thirteen years ago, Wheels To Water founder Andy Janicki was on top of the world. He was a young, ambitious college student, an athlete, and an avid outdoorsman. Each break from school was spent backpacking in the mountains, snowshoeing, rock climbing, canoeing. When he graduated, his dream was to be a field biologist stationed in the middle of nowhere. His life took a traumatic turn, however, when he broke his neck and had a spinal cord injury, leaving him a quadriplegic. The story of acceptance and adjustment to life in a wheelchair is a long one. But it was Andy's strong desire to reclaim his independence in the outdoors that ultimately led to the genesis of Wheels To Water.
Andy Janicki on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Northern Wisconsin, wheelchair in tow.
After popping tires and spending hours going virtually nowhere on trails, Andy began to think that the best way to get back outside may not even include his wheelchair. He soon realized that water was the best avenue back to outdoor exploration which began a long progression of trial and error. Andy had been going on canoeing trips with friends, but with only limited grip in his hands now, he was riding on the floor in the middle of the boat. After crafting basic hand grips on his old kayak paddle and finding a backrest that got him into a seat, Andy was again able to paddle out on the water. It seemed only natural that the next step would be getting back in his kayak, but now dealing with paralysis from the chest down, the boat would need major stabilization. After several failed attempts to modify his old kayak, he settled on a simple tandem that was wide and stable. A couple years later Andy discovered Creating Ability, a small company that specializes in adapting kayaks and paddles for people with a wide array of disabilities. It was their innovative designs that ultimately got Andy back out on the water, paddling independently for the first time in over four years.
During this time, Andy had accepted a position with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources working to enhance outdoor
recreation for people with disabilities. He immediately realized the potential after finding these kayaks and wanted to share this experience with as many people as possible. With the help of Creating Ability, Andy began working to place adaptive kayaks and paddles at state parks for disabled visitors to rent. This quickly led to offering day trips to large groups of people with disabilities, assisted by volunteers and guided by Andy. These events were truly groundbreaking, opening the eyes and liberating the spirits of people who were discovering a new form of independence... out on the water.
Now located on the central coast of California, Andy conceptualized Wheels To Water in an effort to bring this experience to a much larger audience. Contact us today and consider making a donation to become a part of the movement to help others leave their disabilities on the shore...