Accessible Activities - Adaptive Waterskiing
The Lake Norman YMCA, in partnership with Carolinas Rehabilitation, provides an adaptive planning support for adults and children with disabilities. Through water skiing, participants gain the self-esteem and confidence that comes from being independent and away from the wheelchair.
Thanks to generous community support, the Y offers the only adaptive water skiing program in North Carolina. Since it began, the adaptive sports program has grown significantly and now serves nearly 100 skiers each week throughout the summer.
“Skiing gives me an opportunity to feel normal again...My quality of life is better now than when I was walking. It’s made me realize how much more life I have.” – Jesi Stracham
No need to ask Jesi Stracham whether she’s going to participate again this summer in the Adaptive Water Skiing program at the Lake Norman YMCA. “If I don’t,” she jokes, “they’d come and find me.”
Since starting in 1996 as a partnership between the Y and Carolinas HealthCare System, the program has helped people of all ages appreciate that their disability is no handicap. Each summer, 85 or so skiiers leave their wheelchairs at the shoreline and embrace the challenge found in the water. The skiers, who use modified equipment weighted for stability (picture sitting on one giant ski) range from age 2½ to their 70s. Illness, accident or wartime injuries have put a barrier in front of them.
Adaptive Water Skiing – one of a kind in North Carolina – helps them push it away. “It’s a free feeling,” says Jesi, paralyzed from the waist down after a 2015 motorcycle accident. “It’s a feeling that never wears off. Taking a big spill and getting back up, it gives you a freedom that you didn’t remember you had.”
Jesi, who turns 25 on June 21, was in an admittedly dark place when this program allowed her to water-ski for the first time. Now she’s good enough to have qualified for the U.S. Disabled Water Skiing Nationals. She’s become a mentor and inspiration to other skiiers, and as she regains some feeling and movement and works to regain even more, Adaptive Water Skiing helps her see a new tomorrow.