Sunbathers in wheelchairs have three choices other than sitting under the umbrella

by Ilaria Lonigro - 2017.06.28
Sunbathers in wheelchairs have three choices other than sitting under the umbrella
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Being disabled in the summertime does not mean giving up surfing or scuba diving! No one ever said that a disabled person has to stay parked under an umbrella the entire time at the beach. There are at least three options for enjoying one’s time at the sea, and West has discovered them for you.

First:  the beach. Wheelchairs can easily be transformed into a type of mini-tank, for plowing through the sand, grass, mud (even the snow if we are talking about winter vacation). This wonderful pass time is called Freedom Trax (demonstration seen here) and it is a type of “vehicle” that is easy to mount without assistance, in a few simple steps, while staying seated. It is popular among U.S. war veterans, but civilians use them too. They are built in Chicago, Illinois, are battery operated, and are good for up to 5 miles (8 km, more or less). Users can weigh up to 113 kg, and can get around by using a joystick. From June 23 – 25, individuals can check them out at the Chicago Abilities Expo. The only problem is the price: about 6,000 euro list price, but they can also be found for 4,000 euro, over the internet, on websites like this one. It should be added that reviews have been very enthusiastic.

Second: from the shore to the waves.  Massimiliano Mattei, born in Livorno, in 1976, is the pioneer of “disability surfing”. His life in a wheelchair came about due to an accident, but it did not rob him of the desire to cut  the waves with his surfboard. Which is why he created a modified version with handles and pillows that allow him to surf lying down. Which is exactly what he demonstrated last year to the public at the World Surfing Championships in San Diego (California), representing Italy. To learn how to do it just like Massimiliano, one can head for the school of adaptive surf, “Surf4All”, at the American Beach of Tirrenia, in the province of Livorno. “This beach is particularly suited, he explains, because  “it produces a particular type of wave and there is a “dry” zone, which means that surfing here is perfectly safe”.

The third: immersion with a B.O.B. (Breathing Observation Bubble), a type of underwater motorcycle, that lets you go as deep as 12 meters, while wearing a special helmet that forms an air bubble inside that lets you breath. There is no need to be an expert driver to steer the B.O.B. : there are no gears. It is entirely electric, and most of all, very slow: max speed of 5 km/hour. Ideal for admiring tropical fish, this vehicle can be rented everywhere, from Egypt to the Bahamas. (

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