Adapting the paddle board, a revelation at little extra cost
I started the adapted paddle board SUP project with a friend, Geneviève Hallé, who became paraplegic after a fall while snowboarding. She is the kind of super inspiring friend who does scuba diving, dancing, painting, piano, biking, surfing and who came to me one day telling me that she had gone paddle boarding with her boyfriend! She will always surprise me! But what surprised me even more was that her adaptations to be able to do this activity were very simple; a paddle board, a "festival" type seat that you can find in any outdoor store and a double paddle! This meant that a person living with functional limitations who wanted to start paddle boarding did not have to pay much more than a person with no limitations. Plus, they could get access to the equipment quickly! It was a revelation for me!
Normally, in adapted sports, people have to get custom-made equipment which, you guessed it, is very expensive and takes a long time to be delivered! But this was not the case for the adapted paddle board "Ge version"! It was absolutely necessary to show this to as many people as possible!
The key to success: Passion and determination
That's when Marie-Philippe Lévesque and Mireille Descarreaux, a kinesiologist and an occupational therapist, joined us. Four women who love water and are passionate about SUP came together with one goal: making our sport as accessible as possible. We had all the good intentions in the world, but our budget was inversely proportional to our enthusiasm to start the project. In other words, we didn't have any money!
When you start a new project, you are often told no. In fact, most of the time we don't even get a response to our requests! A no is almost appreciated, since it is at least an answer, but it is still discouraging. When we talk to colleagues who work in the development of adapted sports, they recommend that we give our project time to prove itself and then it will be easier to convince companies to get on board with us. That can sound good, but it's a vicious circle...the less sponsorships you have, the harder it is to prove yourself.
So starting from nothing, or almost nothing, we needed partners who were willing to invest in a project that was still in its first stages.
A relentleess collaboration
In 2018, three years after we had the dream of developing the adapted paddle board, we finally had good news! Adaptavie, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of people with functional limitations, agreed to oversee our project. Then, TAIGA donated two boards to us!
The TAIGA team said yes from the start! Pascal and Nicolas believed in our project even though we had only done a few pool tests with a few participants. The fact that a Quebec company encouraged our initiative gave us a huge boost. It is largely thanks to them that the project not only took shape, but also grew. Because, almost 3 years later, they are still paddling with us!
Although their initial contribution was greatly appreciated, the fact that they are still with us is just as much appreciated, if not more. Indeed, when you develop a project, there are many needs that emerge. We started our adapted paddle board club with people who were in wheelchairs. During our second season, we had requests from participants with amputations who wanted to try paddle boarding. They would be standing on the board with their prosthesis and would need a simple paddle. Equipment that we did not have in great quantity and that we had not foreseen in our budget for that year! We thought it was a shame that we would not be able to make the activity available to this clientele until next year, so we called on our friends at TAIGA! Two weeks later, Coco showed up at the Tribal Fest in Shawinigan to give me five paddles! Five paddles that changed EVERYTHING in our service offering!
Then, of course, when you use boards every week for club outings and some weekends to participate in festivals, it is possible for things to break. It's not tragic, but since our season is rather short (Quebec summer!) having one less board means less participants on the water! Once again, we called TAIGA to the rescue! Not only did they send us instructions on how to make the repairs, but they also lent us another board to help us out!
Photo : Paddleboard SUP adapté
We were also lucky enough to work with a team of design students from Laval University who worked on improving the seat we use on the boards. They worked with us, the TAIGA team and our participants to make a seat that was more practical, more comfortable and that even allowed our participants to be more autonomous for their transfers and seat adjustments. If we have enough requests for this new seat, Nicolas mentioned that it would even be possible for them to produce the seat and thus, in the future, to be able to offer not only the board, but also the seat and the paddle directly from TAIGA to anyone wishing to begin adapted paddle boarding. To be continued!
One thing is for sure, we are very lucky to have TAIGA to support us in our project. We are proud to glide on the water with the members of our club on these magnificent boards provided by a Quebec company. A company that is so passionate about its sport that is willing to give a hand to small local initiatives that aim to develop its adapted version.
A huge thank you to the entire TAIGA team! Keep up the good work! Thank you to Adaptavie, to the design team (Laurie Martel, Sébastien Robitaille, Anaël Fournier) as well as to our parents, friends and volunteers who allow our project to exist.
Hope to see you on the water soon!