The Shockwaves performance water ski team will host two inaugural clinics this summer for adaptive athletes who might never have been able to waterski on their own.
“We can help any person of any ability waterski safely,” said Director of the Adaptive Ski Squad and Prior Lake City Councilman Kevin Burkart.
And he would know. Not only do Burkart and co-director Paul Snell share years of experience as professional water skiers and former coaches with the North Dakota Association for the Disabled, but Burkart himself is an adaptive athlete.
Five years ago, Burkart suffered a brachial plexus injury in a head-on snowmobile collision. The hyperextension of his spine left him without mobility in his left arm. Burkart determined he would not allow his injury to stop him from participating in sports.
“We’ve all got our challenges,” Burkart said. “You can use that as an excuse or you can move forward. I hope to serve as an inspiration.”
Since the accident, he scuba dives, snowboards, ski dives and, of course, water skis. His involvement with the Shockwaves adaptive water ski squad will help other adaptive athletes to do the same.
Shockwaves’ new adaptive equipment enables paraplegics, quadriplegics, veterans, amputees and individuals who are blind, mentally challenged or suffer from neurological disorders to water ski. With $11,500 of new adaptive equipment, a professional training team and the private Quarry Lake as home base, the Shockwaves coaches feel prepared to offer a fun and safe experience for all interested participants.
“Sometimes we take for granted that we can just strap on a pair of water skis and go,” said Snell, who is not an adaptive athlete. “It is a fantastic experience to share that with someone who wouldn’t normally be able to water ski.”
Snell says they hope to grow the program this year and offer clinics on a more regular basis in future seasons.
To make the 2017 season possible, Burkart and his wife Laura contributed $5,000 of seed grant money to the initiative, which the Shakopee-Prior Lake Water Ski Association matched. Together with $15,000 in donations, as well as a trailer provided by Northern Tool, Shockwaves is all set for adaptive athletes to hit the waves for their inaugural season, free of charge.
“This could be one of the premiere adaptive water-ski teams in the country, if not the world,” Burkart said.
Shockwaves adaptive ski clinics will be held at Quarry Lake from 2-8 p.m. on June 20 and Aug. 8. Registration is available on the city of Prior Lake website.