Adaptive Paddling in Michigan

As with cycling, paddle sports have become wildly popular in the disabled community in recent years. This sport—from outriggers canoeing to rafting—is popular due to its relative affordability and the extensive lakes, rivers, and shorelines available across the United States—especially in Michigan. Unlike with cycling and skiing, few or no modifications to standard equipment are needed. As a sport, paddling emphasizes individual ability, but water acts as an equalizer for those of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.


As with other adaptive sports, disabled individuals must choose the type of boat, most often a kayak, that suits their specific needs. The four primary kayak styles are listed below:


Sit-on-Top—Also known as “open-decked,” these have similar hull shapes to their traditional counterparts. However, rather than sitting inside, a molded-in depression on top carries the individual’s weight. These are some of the most comfortable kayaks around.


Sea—Also known as “touring,” these kayaks are used on “flat” water such as lakes, inlets, bays, and very slow-moving rivers. Sea kayaks are best for open ocean paddling, but general touring boats are great for any type of water.


White-water—These are primarily used on fast-moving rivers. Their smaller, shorter frame is more easily maneuvered with paddles. These boats turn more easily, making them a dynamic option for more adventurous boaters.


Inflatable—These kayaks travel well, solve storage problems, and are very lightweight, making them easier to manage and maneuver.


Kayaks will also come in both single and tandem designs, furthering their accessibility to disabled persons. For more information and resources about adaptive rowing, visit US Rowing’s website.