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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chasing The Ocean Life For Those With Spinal Injuries

"I have really been touched by how this program is taking on a life of it's own," explains Bruckner Chase.

"We have now been heading into the open water every Sunday. Literally rain or shine for the past 5 weeks. The most exciting outcome of this program is the impact we see on those who are just watching these guys in the water. We started in the pool over the winter, and the goal was to insure they were all swimmers first."

When Chase is talking about taking people of all ages and abilities in the ocean, it is nothing new. He does it all the time with his Ocean City Swim Club, Toa o le Tai, POW, and other programs that range from American Samoa to New Jersey and many places in between. But there is something very special about the people he first started to instruct in the pool and then take out to the ocean every Sunday.

The program is gutsy and visionary on the part of both Chase and the participants.

"This is a perfect new addition to my goal of creating new watermen and waterwomen wherever I can find them. The City of Upper Township has been incredibly supportive supplying both EMT's to help us move participants into the water and a mat to cover the sand as they move into the water. Before we started this program, beach access mats were designed to get wheelchairs and the physically challenged ONTO the sand. No one seems to have ever considered that some of these individuals with spinal injuries might actually might want to keep going further [into the ocean]."

But individuals like Rebecca Guilbeaux wanted to go further even if she is paralyzed from the waist down. But under Chase's guidance, Guilbeaux is now able to feel that wonderful sense of movement as she breezes over the surface of the ocean on a paddle board in the bay near Upper Township, New Jersey. She explains, "Prone paddling equals everything out between people with disabilities and people without. It brings people together instead of separating them."

"You should see how they all enjoy how they enjoy moving on the ocean," Chase explains with pride. "But we just don't put them out in the ocean at once. We go through a very careful educational program utilizing appropriate safety protocols first."

Together with specialist Becky McGill, they have created a passionate group with ocean swimmers and paddlers both with and without physical challenges who love the opportunities and camaraderie that paddleboarding brings to them.

It is awesome to be on the water,” said Joannie Anastasi, a paddleboarder who has been paraplegic since birth.

"These guys continue to transcend anything they thought was a limit for them on the ocean," sums up Chase. For more information about this program, contact Bruckner Chase at synthesis@brucknerchase.com.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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