Adaptive water sports program helps athletes water ski, wakeboard

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-30 14:25:42-04

DENVER -- Isaac Naftz says he’s been waiting way too long to get back to his favorite summer sport – wakeboarding.

“The adrenaline starts getting you,” he told Denver7. “I forgot how good it feels to be out here.”

Naftz was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly. Naftz said that until he got involved with adaptive sports, he was pretty much confined to a wheelchair.

“Yes, there are some struggles, but it’s not as hard as people think," he explained.

He and Devin Butler are two of the athletes who regularly take part in Denver Parks & Recreation's Adaptive Recreation programs in the summer. On Wednesdays, they head out to Sloan's Lake for some water skiing and wakeboarding.

“It doesn’t matter, as soon as you get out on that water and the boat’s hauling you… you forget about everything else,” Devin explained.

Devin was paralyzed from the chest down after he was hit by a car at age 15. He became involved with the adaptive sports program a few years later.

“Over that time I’ve watched all the disabled children get up and start wakeboarding and water skiing,” he said. “It’s truly amazing to come out and see a different view that you don’t get to see as bi-pedal two-legger.”

Melissa Root is a recreational therapist with Denver Parks & Recreation and helps keep these weekly events going.

“One of our favorite things about this program is that we can get people out of their wheel chairs, off their walkers, away from canes make all the adaptations needed to help them be successful out on the water and give them the freedom,” she said.

Denver Parks & Recreation offers these events for eight Wednesdays every summer. Participants can try adaptive water skiing or biking for $5 each or do both sports for $8. Boat rides are $2. The drivers of the boats volunteer their time, boats and gas every week.