Story by Alison Baionno
Photos by Clinton McDaniel
“This enables me to concentrate more on the push rather than the pull,” said Travis Oldhouser, an Ability360 Sports & Fitness member and avid outdoor recreationalist, after taking the Versa paddle for a trial run at Tempe Town Lake.
Oldhouser, who has a C6 spinal cord injury, faces a few obstacles, when dealing with the traditional kayaking paddle due to some functional limitations in his hand grip, core and upper body ranges of motion.
The Versa paddle design uses a mount that supports the weight of the angled paddle that has a wide V shape. The mount and the angled paddle allow the user to effectively and effortless paddle through calm water. Since the mount holds the paddle, one-handed paddling is possible. The paddle itself can be adjusted by push button from 180° to approximately 130°, to fit the angle desired by the user and adjusted for length from 6 ¾ feet to nearly 8 feet long.
Oldhouser benefitted from the paddle being at a smaller angle allowing his paddle to make contact with the water with minimal effort from his upper body. “Effortless,” “natural,” and “absolutely awesome” were just some of the words he and his wife, Tina Oldhouser, used to describe the mechanism.
For an individual like Travis, having a device that allows him to paddle the kayak, as well eliminate worry for over-fatiguing, is innovative.
“I know what our next purchase is going to be,” Tina said. She observed that Travis looked “natural” on the water with the Versa paddle. “I’m excited! Now this is something else we can do together.”
Designed for recreational use on flat water, the Versa paddle is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Jim Van Gompel who created the oar so that he could kayak without triggering his asthma.
The Versa paddle is made by Angle Oar and retails for $315.00. The device weighs four pounds and fits many but not all kayaks. More information can be found at AngleOar.com.
Editors’ Note: Angle Oar supplied a Versa paddle for our review which was returned to the company upon completion.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Alison came to Phoenix in 2016. After graduating with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Temple University, Alison pursued her career as a recreational therapist at Ability360. With a love for leisure and recreation, Alison enjoys hiking, painting, drawing, and making people smile, any chance she can.