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Adventuring with new gear on Vancouver Island
By Fiona Scott

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As travel destinations learn about the advantages of environments and attractions being built with full inclusivity in mind, adventurer seekers have a growing number of opportunities to experience. Whether the adventures sought are simply breathing in the fresh air along a forested trail or catching a wave along the shoreline, accessible experiences often need extensive research and planning. Is the pathway going to be clear—is the equipment going to fit—and perhaps most importantly, am I going to be safe? The questions and answers before embarking on the adventure can be daunting, but the satisfaction and appreciation after the adventure, are worth the entire journey. With reputable organizations helping to alleviate some of the planning stresses, the memories become even more golden as we can focus on the joys of adventuring.

One such organization is the RAD Recreation Adapted Society, offering rentals on adaptive equipment within British Columbia. Founder Tanelle Bolt embraced her own fears of being in a wheelchair and exploring new terrains by using a mountain trike, and quickly remembered the importance of outdoor adventuring. “The outdoors is a place of balance. I’ve always been an outside kid and my wheelchair isn’t going to stop that. My physical and emotional wellbeing is gained from stepping away from the grinds of life.” So, with an invigorated spirit Tanelle opted to help others in similar situations. Whether a person is aging, recovering from an injury or adapting to a paralyzing one, adventure is for everybody and equipment is available.

Being based on Vancouver Island has given Tanelle the opportunity to discover many of the bike trails in and around Victoria. Sometimes it’s a handcycle day on a flat paved route, others it’s a mountain trike (all terrain wheelchair) day through long grass (but a hard-packed trail). Regardless of the type of equipment she uses, it gives her the freedom to enjoy the surrounding environment with friends. They laugh and tell stories along the way, and plan for the next adventures. “And the fact that I do this every day—with a disability, is what helps people conquer their own fears in renting adaptive equipment. I am encouraging. I allow them space to try things their own way. There isn’t a lot of volunteer hands in RAD, so this is how it works.”

In order to highlight some of the beautiful areas of British Columbia that adaptive gear can be used in, Tanelle joined forces with Nicole Petersen and created the company, SoulFly Experiences. SoulFly travel programs have been curated to be accessible, culturally respectful, safe, authentic and sustainable (with a touch of adventure of course!). The Vancouver Island package is called ‘Coastal Dream’ and includes whale and wildlife viewing, seaside spa rejuvenation, an option for water sports, biking and self-guided trekking in addition to accessible beach chairs and access trax.

For those water loving adventure seekers, Tanelle recommends a wave ski (like a sit on top surfboard) or an adaptive kayak. “There’s nothing quite like the sound of water lapping around you while adrenaline builds and a wave smoothly picks up your momentum.” says Bolt. Knowing the right access point to some of the lakes or ocean fronts is crucial, of which she shares her experiences during the rental process.                    

SoulFly travel packages also cover experiences in the Okanagan region of BC, with multiple lakes to dip into, or wineries to tour. As a self-drive package, you can also customize the itinerary with a trip to Invermere to practice your golf swing using the paragolpher.  As an all-terrain wheelchair that actually raises the user into standing position, golfing all of a sudden, is fully accessible. Tanelle recalls the experience of one of her most memorable clients; 

This 88-year-old man had been in a wheelchair for several years with deteriorating health. Doctors then discovered a pressure point to release, and he recovered enough to walking with a walker. Although older people are often scared of devices, he was willing to try. He had always loved golf, but he hadn’t hit a ball in 7 years. And then he was able to swing a club with the paragolfer as his wife and kids all looked on. It was magical. It was emotional. Everyone had the biggest smile of gratitude in seeing him experience life as he chose to.

Adventuring can mean different things to different people, but it seems that in British Columbia, the support for accessible experiences is out there. Happy travels!

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