I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend afternoon than out in the open water enjoying the weather, wildlife, exercise, and scenery. The Atlanta Rowing Club has a program devoted to helping everyone experience the joy of rowing. Known as South Eastern Adaptive Sculling [SEAS], the program is currently entering its second year.

SEAS introduces the concept of adaptive rowing to Abilities Expo attendees.
SEAS introduces the concept of adaptive rowing to Abilities Expo attendees.

The SEAS program is specifically designed for folks with intellectual, physical, or visual impairments that are attracted to the sport of rowing. “Adaptive rowing is particularly well-suited for these aspiring athletes because it is a non-contact, low-impact sport that provides physical activity in a team environment.”

The SEAS program trains new rowers on an indoor rowing machine adapted to suit their needs and introduces terms and concepts of proper technique and procedure before moving into the real thing on the water. The SEAS program is created with the mindset that only a few sessions of training are needed before members can get out on the water and start rowing.

The Atlanta Rowing Club website lists out some valuable resources on adaptive rowing. We have provided some of this information from their site below:

“Clubs across the nation have started adaptive rowing programs including the Capital Rowing Club of Washington, DC.  The sport made its debut at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.  To ensure fair competition for adaptive athletes, FISA has established a number of classifications (see below).”

  • TA (Trunk and Arms)Rowers unable to use a sliding seat are considered TA participants.  Typical disabilities include bilateral knee amputation or a complete lesion at vertebrate L3.
  • AS (Arms and Shoulders)Individuals with lesions at vertebrate T12 or cerebral palsy class 4 are included in the AS category and typically have minimal or no trunk function.
  • LTA (Legs, Trunk, Arms)LTA-PD (physical disability) participants typically have a minimal disability of amputation, incomplete lesion at vertebrate S1, or cerebral palsy class 8.  LTA-B classification is reserved for individuals with a minimum of 10% visual impairment.
Are you ready to hit the water yet?
Are you ready to hit the water yet?

So you may be asking “How can I get started?” If you are in the Atlanta area, we would recommend checking out the SEAS program. The first step in the process is to fill out the SEAS application form which can be found here. This form is intended to provide past history, athletic ability, and other basic information to allow the program to serve you adequately. If you are not in the immediate Atlanta area, SEAS has listed some quality link resources on their website for various other adaptive programs around the nation which can be found at the bottom of the page here.

We really love the adaptive rowing program and we hope you check them out at http://www.atlantarow.org/printview/adaptive-rowing.aspx. Row on!

The Real World Example of Angela Madsen by John E. Phillips

Angela Madsen - Paralympic athlete, international rower
Angela Madsen – Paralympic athlete, international rower

After Angela Madsen suffered a spinal cord injury, she lost her military career and most of her possessions before reaching a turning point in her life.  That point, for Angela, was the day she was introduced to wheelchair sports.  She discovered adaptive rowing, and has soared to new heights as an international rower crossing oceans worldwide as part of elite teams.


Question: Angela, tell us about your turning point in life after spinal cord injury.

Madsen: Some of the guys at the hospital encouraged me to go to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The Disabled American Veterans people sponsored me to go and paid for my airfare and hotel room. At the Disabled American Veterans games, I signed-up to participate in javelin, shot putt and discus. I got gold medals in all the events, and I got back into body surfing.

Eventually, I built enough strength to where I could sit down on a surfboard backwards and surf. To get down to the water, I asked the lifeguards to put me on the board in the back of their truck and ride me to the edge of the water. They would then drive me out on wave runners, so I could surf-in to shore.

Question: What did you do after your first experience participating in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games?

Madsen: I got into wheelchair basketball. One of the guys I met at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games said they had a coach at the hospital. I met with the coach and his teams. He said he coached the women’s basketball team in Sunrise, Florida, and asked me to play with them.

So, I got a basketball wheelchair from the VA and bounced around between a couple of teams. While I was playing with one of these teams, they also had an outdoor adventure program, which is where I learned to row.  My rowing instructors were from Pacific West Rowing at Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, California.

Question: What did you like about rowing?

Madsen: I was able to be on the water, I wasn’t sitting in the wheelchair, and I love anything that has to do with the ocean. When I started rowing, I found out that I was good at it and had a talent for it. This team sponsored me and sent me to Indianapolis, Indiana, for a regatta. I basically won every event I entered. To date, I’ve won 70 medals for rowing.

Angela loves the sense of freedom from being on the water with friends.
Angela loves the sense of freedom from being on the water with friends.

Question: How did your friends and supporters help you get more involved in adaptive rowing?

Madsen: One of my friends was a flight attendant, and she’d get me buddy passes to go to rowing competitions. Larry Lonergan ran Pacific West Rowing, and he built adaptive equipment for our boats, including the fixed seats and the outriggers. He’s been involved in adaptive rowing for a long time, and his company sponsored me for my first competition.

Question: What made you decide to start rowing across oceans?

Madsen: I started taking my little boat out on races in San Diego,California, where they had a bay-to-bay race from Pacific Beach to Mission Bay Harbor, about 20-miles away. Then I found out about a race that went to Catalina Island. Tori Murden, who participated in adaptive rowing, was the first woman to row solo across the ocean, and I was in the boat that followed her.

I wanted to do the same thing, but I kept telling myself that I’d never be able to do it. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy in 2000, I changed my thinking about rowing across the ocean and started training.

Question: What was your first big break in joining an elite rowing team?

Madsen: Joe Le Guen and the Amputee Coalition of America were looking for a male amputee to row across the Atlantic Ocean. He’d formed a team of four amputees, including himself, Franck Festor from Metz,France, and Pierre Denis from Belgium. I responded to his ad and was very persistent in asking him if he’d take a female.

Joe and Franck came to California, and I took them rowing and surfing. Joe finally agreed to let me be a member of the team. We trained for a year. Our goal was to row from New York to Belgium in 2006. Sadly, we lost a couple of sponsors and couldn’t financially get to the starting line.

See Angela discuss the path she took to become a global athlete in international rowing, her outlook is fantastic:

Download Discovering: Accessible US Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users

Discovering-Coverlowres240x240In this book, you’ll discover a state-by-state directory of accessible travel destinations across the United States.

These accessible travel suggestions are part of the Get Out & Enjoy Life [GOEL] program that is a joint educational initiative between Wheel:Life, a global community of wheelchair users, and SPORTS ‘N SPOKES magazine, published by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

More than 70,000 wheelchair users from 108 countries took part in Wheel:Life resources in 2014.

You’ll find that each chapter of this book provides easily-accessible destinations that are fun and engaging for friends who use wheelchairs. Discovering is an easy, encouraging read that will help you explore all kinds of travel destinations and family fun spots, whether you are new to using a wheelchair or a seasoned pro.

Please note that not every state in the US is featured in this travel guide, just the ones that we have included in our GOEL program to date.


Justin1  About the Author: Justin Racine, from Boston, serves as a Category Manager for Invacare Supply Group. He graduated from Western New England University with a B.S.B.A in Marketing Communication/Advertising. When he’s not busy with Marketing, Justin enjoys competing in 10K races, Boston sports, and spending time with friends and family.

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