Off Beat Stories

Sep 4, 2009 12:05 PM by Brad Drazen

Daredevils overcome disabilities and fear to perform on water

A Connecticut man has made it his mission to teach the most unlikely athletes how to become master maneuverers on the water.

Water skiing is a sport of speed.

"This kind of completes my adrenaline addiction," says skier Joe Shortt.

"You can feel the water underneath your skiis. Get the wind in your face and get going pretty fast," adds skier Alex Snow.

As often as they can, this group gathers to walk on water.

Alex snow has now been skiing for about ten years.

Learning has its challenges, but everyone here will tell you it's worth the hard work.

"Water skiing is really a lot about getting past that first thump of getting up and then it's really up to you how far you want to go," says skier Rich Romero.

"It builds my self confidence," adds Donna Gackeneimer.

There's a good reason for that. That's because of these skier riding the waves has a special challenge.

Alex Snow was born almost totally blind.

Joe Shortt was paralyzed by a drunk driver in 2002.

Marc Romero lost his leg in a motorcycle accident.

And Donna.

"My ankles are fused. I was born with something called arthrogriposis."

This ski club is called Leaps of Faith, founded by Joel Zeisler back in 1991.

"Sometimes I actually forget that I'm working with people with major disabilities," says Zeisler.

Zeisler says he really hasn't encountered a person yet he can't teach to ski.

Some ski standing, even on one leg.

Others sit solo, and then there are those who have side skiers for support.

"To me it certainly beats being out on a tennis court or golf course or sitting in front of a TV and that's what some of the disabled people have been limited to some degree doing," says Zeisler.

But not anymore.

"Once I found water-skiing, it was really an eye opener for me and I really pursued it," says Shortt.

"You come here and everyone's treated the same. We all have different disabilities but everyone fits in and it's just amazing," says Gackenheimer.

And for a few moments when they're on the water, their disability no longer dictates the direction of their life.

 

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