Sport doesn’t have to stop with a disability…
Anyone can get involved in adaptive rowing, regardless of physical disability, sensory or learning impairment.
One of Pengwern’s adaptive rowers explains what the sport means to them…
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a rower. Maybe you enjoy it because you have a busy life and the workout that rowing provides helps you unwind. Perhaps it’s the competitive element – or the camaraderie. The close proximity to nature could be an attraction for you or just the promise of a drink after a rowing session.
Now imagine that your life is compromised by a disability. This may mean only seeing the countryside through a car window. It often means that sport and recreation are more difficult to take part in, and maintaining fitness can be a problem.
And so imagine the intensity of my feelings as I was tentatively pushed away from the pontoon for the first time. Although the boat had stabilisers, it felt so sensitive to my movements and seemed to want to work with me. Before long I was making slow but steady progress towards the footbridge, through the gentle, golden solitude of an autumn day. I was in a bubble of my own, hearing only the gentle splashes as my blades entered the water.
To be this close to nature is thrilling and something I have longed for during the 20 years I’ve been in a wheelchair. To be able to do so using only muscle power and the cooperation of the boat is exhilarating. I have no ambitions to compete – for me this is enough.
I had never thought that rowing was something severely disabled people could enjoy. I’ve had friends who were rowers, and they were beautiful to watch – athletic, balanced, co-ordinated. I, on the other hand, am none of those things. Paralysed from the chest down, I’m unable to use my legs or core, and my balance is almost non-existent. To overcome these disadvantages, my single scull, is adapted with a fixed seat and a back rest that does the work that I cannot. It is also extremely stable.
There is so much about rowing I enjoy. Being pushed away from the pontoon always gives me a thrill of anticipation. The sense that my body is working hard to create the momentum to move over the water is a new and powerful experience each time. And yet there is a deeper reward than just physical activity, such as independence and an emotional outlet.
None of this would be possible without the willingness, cooperation, imagination and open mindedness of the volunteers who work behind the scenes and turn up every week in all weathers – on behalf of all the adaptive rowers, a big Thank You to them.