Adaptive Kayak Training with Hoofer Outing Club

We had an incredible day of learning, growth, and inclusivity at our Adaptive Kayak Training event with the UW-Madison Hoofer Outing Club. This event was designed to provide our dedicated Hoofer volunteers and Outdoor UW Staff with essential knowledge about adaptive kayaking equipment and techniques. We aimed to equip them with the skills necessary to assist individuals with disabilities, including wheelchair users, in and out of the water, and how to perform water rescues for individuals who may have fallen into the water.

Rachael, the accessibility coordinator of Upham Woods, and Katie, the accessibility Intern of Upham Woods, graciously shared their expertise and knowledge about adaptive kayaks. They were also joined by Joy, a local resident who guides kayaking trips at Devil’s Lake State Park and lives with multiple disabilities, who shared her lived experience and enthusiasm for kayaking.  This training focused on equipment specially designed to make kayaking accessible to individuals with diverse mobility needs, but as Joy shared, she doesn’t use any of this equipment. Instead, she uses a sit-on kayak because every individual is unique and needs to find the set-up that is best for them. 


Throughout the afternoon, participants engaged in hands-on learning experiences. They had the opportunity to explore and familiarize themselves with the adaptive kayaking equipment, including transfer bench, outrigger adjust, and hand adaptation. The participants learned how to properly set up and change the equipment to ensure maximum comfort and safety while kayaking.

One of the highlights of the event was the practical training sessions. Participants actively practiced setting up adaptive kayaking equipment. They learned to help individuals who use wheelchairs transfer from their chair into the kayak and allow them to complete the transfer process with maximum independence. Participants learned various approaches to provide the necessary support and guidance while maintaining the participants’ safety and dignity. 

Additionally, the event emphasized water rescue techniques specifically tailored to individuals using adaptive kayaks. Participants learned how to perform swift and efficient rescues, ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants in case of emergencies. These skills are crucial in creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone to enjoy the water with confidence.


The Adaptive Kayak Training event fostered a sense of community, empathy, and appreciation for the diverse abilities and strengths of individuals. It was heartwarming to witness the enthusiasm and willingness of all the participants to learn and support one another throughout the training. This equipment was purchased thanks to the FY23-24 Dean’s Innovation grant. 

Moving forward, we are excited to integrate adaptive kayaking into our regular programming, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to engage in outdoor activities and experience the joy and freedom of kayaking.

Stay tuned for more updates on our upcoming events and join us as we embark on this incredible journey of empowerment and inclusivity!

By Yumeng Xie
Upham Woods Outreach and Communications Intern


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