Enabling Confidence to Win Out Over Fear: Bellyak Takes on Therapeutic Role with Team River Runner

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April 25, 2013 - Asheville, NC – When Adam Masters, lifelong whitewater kayaker, initially came up with the concept for his invention known as a Bellyak; his goal was to make the water accessible in a whole new way and for all levels of paddle sports enthusiasts. His unique, but approachable boat designs are meant to be paddled while lying down. With the aid of webbed gloves, the user’s hands become the paddles and the feeling of flying over water is achieved. Masters knew that in creating Bellyaks, he was creating a whole new category of water craft, one that would appeal to the beginner paddler, while presenting new creative ideas and challenges to those already pushing the limits of paddle sports. What Masters couldn’t predict was that Bellyaks would be used in a rehabilitative setting for individuals recovering from trauma or injury. 

Bob Alexander, a volunteer with Team River Runner in Washington DC, discovered Bellyaks in a video and ordered two boats for his Team River Runner Chapter. Team River Runner (TRR) is a non-profit organization affiliated with Walter Reed Medical Center promoting the idea of 'Health and Healing through Paddlesports.' TRR gives active duty service members and veterans an opportunity to find health, healing, and new challenges through kayaking, whitewater boating and other paddling sports. After speaking with Bob, Masters quickly realized his boats were taking on a more meaningful role – one that would contribute to mental and physical healing of our nation’s wounded and disabled war veterans.

Sean McCarthy, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a Team River Runner chapter coordinator at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, was wowed by the concept of maneuvering on the water in a Bellyak. He began sharing his realizations with other leadership staff members of the TRR program.

“I am always on the lookout for equipment which can better serve our target clients and after seeing the video, I immediately saw the value Bellyaks would have for the range of participants our program serves,” says McCarthy.

In addition to providing a therapy outlet for recovering amputees, Team River Runner facilitates paddling therapy sessions for active-duty and veteran service members who are coping with Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Spinal Cord Injury, or Emotional Impairment. Bellyaks are designed to be used on any type of water. This is especially great for programs like Team River Runner because their paddling sessions always begin in a swimming pool and later progress to outdoor flat water venues such as a lake or coastal inlet.

“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,” notes McCarthy. “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.”

Thus far, 10 Team River Runner chapters are using Bellyaks in therapeutic and adaptive paddle sports programs. Masters is well on his way to meeting his goal of supplying each of the 30 plus chapters with at least two Bellyaks.

“I’ve long been familiar with the many social and athletic benefits of participating in paddle sports, as it’s been part of my life since I was a kid,” says Masters. “As a designer and an entrepreneur, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see Bellyaks taking on this unexpected purpose for rehabilitative programs like Team River Runner. 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.”

Though Bellyaks were born on the banks of the French Broad, an iconic whitewater river that flows throughout the Western North Carolina region, they are built to be used on any type of water.

For more information about Adam Masters and Bellyak, please visit bellyak.com

For more information about Team River Runner, please visit teamriverrunner.org