Veterans take to Mission Bay for Adaptive Kayaking, and some Football!
With a slight mist in the chilly morning air, Team Neptune and Team Phoenix arrived at Mission Bay Yacht Club energetic and ready to kayak. By the water's edge waited brand new 2012 Hobie kayaks; some built for tandem kayaking, some for solo rides, and adaptive boats customized for any and all mobility issues. Representatives from Team River Runner, a national nonprofit organization focused on adaptive therapeutic kayaking, explained the day’s events and inspired a competitive spirit among the Veterans when they announced that teams would be competing in kayak football, water polo, and tennis ball pick-up.
Veterans spent the morning out on the water learning various kayaking techniques and enjoying the light marine breeze. "It's just so peaceful out there," commented Michael Ricci, a Vietnam Veteran from New Jersey who has run his own skiing and surfing clinics for injured Veterans throughout the years. Several Veterans echoed that same thought and described the freedom they felt when being out on the open water. A few Veterans took some unexpected plunges into the water, like first time participant Sean Michaud, a Marine Corps Veteran from San Antonio, but all came up smiling and ready for more. "I decided to go for a little swim," joked Michaud as he got right back into his kayak.
The games kicked off after lunch, when Team Neptune and Team Phoenix put their new kayaking skills to the test. Tennis ball pick-up required each team to collect 50 floating tennis balls and carry them across the inlet to awaiting bins on the dock. Keeping it to a tight race, Team Neptune came out just ahead with a time of 6:05, while Team Phoenix was right behind at 6:13.
Kayak football brought out the energy and sprit in all the Veterans and their families and coaches, who were cheering loudly from the dock. This game tested dexterity and balance, and of course the ability to throw a wet football while seated in a kayak. After multiple spills into the water, all participants came out laughing, smiling and wet. "Being here has given me the inspiration, the help, and the confidence to stay committed," said Babette Peyton, a Veteran from Chicago. "Being able to meet such great people…this has really had a big impact on me," she continued.
The teams wrapped up the day by awarding one member of the opposing team with a football signed by each team member. Bruce Kuker, an Army Veteran from San Antonio, accepted the honor for Team Phoenix, while Babette Peyton took home the trophy for Team Neptune. Navy Veteran John Grim, a first time participant and recent amputee, summed up the day simply. "If you didn’t have fun today out there, you are crazy."
By Jessica Thomsen, Public Affairs Specialist, Los Angels, CA