When developing his innovative bodyboat, the Bellyak, Adam Masters never intended to invent an adaptive watercraft for those with traumatic injuries or a therapeutic outlet for post-traumatic stress disorder.
But after seeing the difference his crafts made in the lives of veterans in the Washington D.C. area, last month Bellyak pledged to supply at least 60 of his boats to Team River Runner (TRR), a non-profit organization rehabilitating active-duty and veteran soldiers through paddlesports.
“I’ve long been familiar with the many social and athletic benefits of participating in paddlesports, as it’s been part of my life since I was a kid,” said Masters, son of legendary Perception Kayaks founder Bill Masters. “As a designer and an entrepreneur, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see Bellyaks taking on this unexpected purpose.”
Though face-first, full-body Bellyaks were born on the banks of the French Broad River, an iconic whitewater run flowing through Western North Carolina, they are truly built for any type of water. “It’s also heartening to see that consumers are connecting the lines between the intuitive nature of swimming and the easy approachability of our boats,” Masters continued.
The partnership began when a volunteer for TRR, Bob Alexander, watched a video of this unique boat, which is paddled lying face-down using webbed gloves instead of a traditional paddle. He purchased two Bellyak’s for his Washington chapter and saw immediate success.
“It’s very easy to remount in the event of a flip,” said Alexander. “The leg amputees cannot climb back into an inflatable kayak without help, whereas the ease of remounting the Bellyak is perfect for games and rough water where flips are inevitable.”
“The Bellyak offers a comfortable way to enjoy watersports without fear of entrapment, provides a great aerobic workout, helps with balance and offers more possibilities for people with disabilities,” he added.
With the help of some generous donors, today one third of the 30 programs nationwide have already begun using the Bellyak. Said Sean McCarthy, a Vietnam War veteran and TRR chapter coordinator in Fort Belvoir, Va.: “The unique design and easy approachability of these crafts allow the user to get into a challenge zone defined by them so they can choose to push it or not. Everything we do with our participants is focused on enabling confidence to win out over fear and the Bellyaks are fitting in perfectly with this critical goal.”
Masters originally designed the Bellyak to increase stability and ease of movement for the beginning paddler while providing new challenges to those already pushing the limits in paddlessports.
Now service men and women have the opportunity to push their own limits as they paddle downstream toward recovery.
For more information about Adam Masters and Bellyak, visit bellyak.com
For more information about Team River Runner, visit teamriverrunner.org