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A Wheelchair User's Guide to Getting Out on the Water

A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Getting Out on the Water

If you use a wheelchair, then you know that wheelchairs and water activities typically don’t mix well. Luckily though, that is not exactly the case in The Palm Beaches.

There are many accessible beaches and attractions in The Palm Beaches, making this area a phenomenal destination for wheelchair users, but what about actually getting out on the water?   Thanks to a variety of adaptive options, it is absolutely possible for wheelchair users to get out on the water. From adaptive scuba diving to accessible sightseeing cruises, almost any activity on the water is accessible for wheelchair users in The Palm Beaches. Check out some of the best offerings below.

Adaptive Scuba Diving 

For the ultimate adaptive adventure, go underwater and try scuba diving in the beautiful city of Jupiter. At Jupiter Dive Center, instructors are certified in adaptive scuba diving and they can customize the experience for almost any individual’s ability. In addition to a specially trained staff, there are also accessible accommodations to get on the boat and then into the water. There is a ramp to get on the boat, but three steps have to be navigated at the dock as well. To manage this, they have a sling to carry wheelchair users in, so that you can get over the steps and then be reunited with your wheelchair onboard the boat. A sling is used again to get people in and out of the water. Jupiter Dive Center is committed to making scuba diving possible for anyone and you can contact them to discuss your specific needs at 561.745.7807.

If you are newly certified or a seasoned pro, Pura Vida Divers can teach you how you can help bring inclusion to the underwater world. During their PADI Adaptive Support Diver course, raise your awareness of the different ability levels of scuba divers and freedivers. Learn how you can best support divers who overcome physical or mental challenges to participate in the sport we all love.  Learn more here.

Adaptive scuba diving lesson at Jupiter Dive Center
Adaptive scuba diving lesson at Jupiter Dive Center

Boat and Fishing Charters

Since 2015, Florida Fishing Academy has been on a mission to improve access for people with disabilities and get as many people out on the water as possible. If a fishing trip is on your radar while in The Palm Beaches, this remarkable nonprofit will make it happen. They have an accessible dock, which has a ramp that drops down for easy access onto the boat. The boat is custom designed to be fully wheelchair accessible and it can hold up to 49 passengers. Whether you have a large group or just want to get out on the water for some fishing time yourself, get in touch with Florida Fishing Academy at 561.740.7227 to schedule your adventure. 

Florida Fishing Academy vessel
Florida Fishing Academy’s wheelchair-accessible boat

Adaptive Kayaking

If kayaking is something that you would like to do in The Palm Beaches, there are a couple accessible options for you. One of the most wheelchair-friendly places to go adaptive kayaking is in Boynton Beach. In 2018, an EZ Launch Accessible Transfer System was installed at Harvey E. Oyer, Jr. Park in Boynton Beach. The installation allows wheelchair users to easily transfer from their wheelchair into the kayak, completely independently. The EZ Launch includes guide rails, launch rollers and even a floating platform, so that the kayak can raise up or down depending on the water levels.    Another accessible option is available at Riviera Beach Marina Village. In addition to the marina’s Mobi-Mats, which allow wheelchair users to get near the water, on-site company Nautical Ventures can store wheelchairs while visitors are kayaking. Employees of Nautical Ventures can also assist wheelchair users with getting into the kayak. They frequently help visitors with disabilities experience kayaking and are happy to help in any way they can. 

Riviera Beach Marina Village
Riviera Beach Marina Village

Sightseeing Cruises

A sightseeing cruise is another wheelchair-accessible way to take in the stunning views and explore the waterways of The Palm Beaches. PonTiki, based in Jupiter, is a company that offers a plethora of sightseeing cruises. Whether you want to go on a sunset cruise, a full moon cruise or a private charter, the PonTiki party boat ensures that a good time is had by all. The company has a portable ramp to get wheelchair users onboard. During the online booking process on the PonTiki website, it even asks if anyone in your party uses a wheelchair, so the company will know to have the ramp ready when you arrive.    Another option for accessible sightseeing cruises is Delray Yacht Cruises in Delray Beach. This is a more upscale experience onboard a yacht, but it still makes for a fun time. There are narrated sightseeing cruises, Sunday brunch cruises and all kinds of specialty cruises for almost every holiday. Delray Yacht Cruises has welcomed many guests with disabilities over the years, but it is important to note that there is a 6-inch threshold to get on the yacht, so using a manual wheelchair is a must.

A Wheelchair User's Guide to Getting Out on the Water
Delray Yacht Cruises

Adaptive Sailing

Sailing may not immediately seem like an accessible activity, but thanks to Palm Beach County’s Therapeutic Recreation Center, people of all abilities can learn how to sail. The sailboats are designed to be user-friendly, meaning the sailboat is weighted and does not tip over. This added safety measure makes getting in and out of the sailboat, and even sailing itself, easier. There is not a lift to assist with transferring from a wheelchair into the sailboat, so you will need to bring a sling or some assistance to help you get in the sailboat. However, once you’re in the sailboat, there are some awesome adaptive features. You can steer with a joystick that sits between your legs and the ropes come to the center, so everything is easily reachable once you’re situated in the sailboat. The adaptive sailing program normally takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach, but it is currently paused due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. The center hopes to restart the adaptive sailing program in summer 2021. 

Sailboats at Okeeheelee Park
Sailboats at Okeeheelee Park

Now that you see just how many possibilities there are, it’s time to start planning your own day on the water. Whether you want to partake in adventurous activities like kayaking and scuba diving or just want to relax on a cruise, you will undoubtedly have a memorable time on the water in The Palm Beaches.


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