In today´s day and age the term ¨disability watersports¨ is becoming progressively more visible as being disabled no longer impedes one from being a capable and competent adventurer and many aquatic sports are becoming accessible for all abilities. We can thank modern technology human creativity and intrigue for these developments. Classic watersports like sailing and powerboating have had their equipment altered so as to accommodate new ways of controlling the boat but there are however, other common sports such as kayaking and waterskiing that are very often activities that most can enjoy just as they are. There are also numerous official governing bodies such as The British Disabled Water Ski Association, IFDS and RYA who organise and regulate these specials fields of activity. The term ¨disability¨ is quite a widely used term and it can be used to describe various different conditions from someone who is visually impaired, in a wheelchair or suffers from a learning disorder.Read on and discover how eager adventurers of all abilities can get outdoors and enjoy their dose of adventure on the water!

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Sailing is amongst one of the most common water sports for those will disabilities. Many boats can be adapted but there is also an international increase in the boats designed for disabled sailors which can also be used by everyone.

The most popular sail boats internationally used for disability sailing are:

  • Paralympic three-person keelboat
  • the Sonar
  • the Paralympic single-person keelboat
  • the 2.4mR
  • the Martin 16, Ideal 18
  • Access Dinghy,
  • Rhodes 19,
  • Hobie Trapseat
  • Freedom

Steering devices: There are various different steering devices which depend on the disability of the sailor. There are steering devices that use the sip and puff technology which is used for those who do not have use of their hands or have reduced muscular abilities. The sip puff method involves the sailor inhaling or exhaling into a tube which in turn controls the steering of the boat. There are also joysticks, wheel steering and collapsing metal tillers (which permit the sailor to move from side to side in the boat). For steering systems, levers can be put on the sides of the boat and handles can be added so that the sailor is able to hold on. It is important to make sure that there are a few obstructions onboard as possible. All of these devices and systems must be follow IFDS rules for optimum safety.

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Seats: Different seats can be added to the boat in order to make the steering equipment accessible and comfortable for the sailor. These seats can be simply taking from a golf kart (something of the sort) or they can be more complex translating seats which allow the sailor to switch from side to side in order to tack and jibe. Seats should be comfortable and padding is an excellent idea.


The BDWSA has helped thousands ski and wakeboard across the surface of the water and graduate from their programs. They offer amazing instructors and helpers who make skiers feel at home on the water and they offer all of the equipment necessary for the experience no matter what the skier´s disability may be. They developed their special adaptive equipment over 20 years ago which has enabled many to learn quickly and efficiently. The Triple bar and Delga sling assist the skiers and wakeboarders and they also provide both skis and boards for seated positions.

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Although sailing is usually the dominant water sport for disabilities, powerboating is up and coming! Powerboats can be equipped with wheel chair tie-downs and ramped steering positions so they can be driven easily by someone in a wheelchair. For those who suffer from reduced mobility or strength, as in sailing, an adaptive steering system can be implemented. This system uses a joystick and up-rated hydraulic steering system. There is a new organization run by Geoff Holt called the Disabled Powerboating Trust. A quadriplegic himself, he noticed that there were oodles of charities for disabled sailing but none for powerboating, and as a boat lover himself, he took the initiative of starting his own!

Geoff Holt


Kayaking is brilliant water sport for disabilities as many times few or no adaptions of the boat need to be added as on the water most disabilites disappear! The national regulatory body of canoeing BCU has given this field of paddling it the brilliant name of Paddleability as the focus is not on the disability, yet on the ability of the paddler.

Just as regular kayakers can choose the type of kayak that best suits them and their needs, disabled kayakers may also choose from a sit-on-top, white water, sea or inflatable kayak.There are brilliant 2 seaters kayaks that are perfect for a paddling duo for visually impaired paddlers.

The beauty of kayaks is that outrigger may be added (like a sort of stabilizer like we use for bicycles) for added stability. There are specially designed tools which could be compared to a sort of crane called a Hoyer life for lowering and lifting the paddler into and out of the boat if the paddler is not as to do so him or herself. The kayak can be placed on top of a wagon which is used to launch the kayak into the water as that the kayaker is able to get in the boat on dry land.

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Adaptive Paddling fixtures or paddle holders permit the paddler to paddle using the paddle in a fixed position. Adapted gloves can also use which have velcro that can be attached to the paddle for those with grip problems who cannot hold the paddle. Different seats can be put in as well to make the boat more comfortable and accessible.

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When it comes to enjoying the water and aquatic sports, thanks to today´s modern technology, those with disabilities are no longer left out, and in many cases they are as capable as the next person. With organizations like RYA and ISAF, these are regulated sports and there are even international competitions and events in the Paraolympics! There are heaps of outdoor activity proivdres around the country offering sessions for disabilities, so why not look at our directory and find one for yourself today!