Adaptive Sports: Our Summer Fabric

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on August 23, 2022 # Lifestyle

waterskierAs soon as school lets out for the summer, all roads lead to Little Squam Lake, where Eastern Adaptive Sports teaches waterskiing. Our student-athletes have a range of interests and abilities, and all share a love of being on the lake, skating across the surface, some moving wake to wake while others enjoy the freedom of unencumbered speed with a person riding on the back for balance and support.

The first time I watched Geoff waterski, was the first time I had seen as much excitement and thrill on his face as he did when he was skiing, which was his first love before me. Adaptive waterskis can be as narrow or wide as needed. There are wakeboards and slalom skis, and even a few students who are so good now they drop one ski now and again. However, there is something extra special about lake life on Little Squam, especially in the summer and Wednesday nights.

Due to Eastern Adaptive Sports being run solely by volunteers, there is one day a week where it all comes together, and Wednesdays are our days. Geoff coordinates with our dear friend and organizer Michelle Nestor, who coordinates with the Stoppes, who owns the dock where the boats come and go. Don Stoppes is an amazing water skier in his own right; however, watching him problem solve with students coming from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities is miraculous.

Volunteers help load and unload the barge, which is a wide dock with a motor. Then, Geoff drives across the lake, allowing a safe platform for sit skiers to ski away from, avoiding water starts when possible. Some volunteers ride on the back of sit skis to assist the skier once the session finishes, and others hop in the lake to assist swimmers or swim in skis when needed. Michelle’s daughter, Olivia, is fifteen, and has volunteered for years now. “It’s important that my daughter volunteers to give back and learn about a world beyond what she knows. Volunteering has allowed her to see that everyone is different in one way or another, and she can learn from those who come from different backgrounds and situations.” Olivia adds, “Volunteering for EAS gives me a sense of responsibility and allows me to share my passion for sports in a unique way.”

Geoff’s best advice as a professional athlete and coach who happens to participate in all of his sports from a seated position is this:

“Come to whatever table or sport with a clear vision of your goals and a realization that learning again is hard. Being a good athlete is just the start but being a good beginner and student again while starting over is the real mental challenge. Advocate for yourself and push for as much independence as possible; you will be fine no matter the proficiency of the instructors in front of him. Be patient and realize that this is all a process.”

waterskierOur daughter, who is 11, has been coming to waterski Wednesdays since she was a baby. She will tell you her favorite part is swimming. She explains how community service doesn’t feel like it because we are having fun at a lake. One of her jobs is to jump off the dock and swim in the water skis for the student who just finished. But, as she said, it might just also be swimming. Our son, who is 12, likes it when he gets the chance to waterski himself if there is an open spot on a boat. He somehow cannot understand that this is not the community service he calls it when explaining it to others. But he is helpful in loading and unloading the barge of all the equipment, life jackets and sometimes humans who need help with their items.

For some of these families, this is the most active recreation their child (whether young or adult and still needing caregiving) experiences in the summer months. And yes, I would be lying if I said Geoff didn’t love the feeling of water skiing too. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to go much anymore, but what is important to him always is sharing the stoke that comes with friends and family recreating together in a beautiful place.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta, who are 12 and 11, respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

Photos by Ken Watson.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.