The Arcade Belt Program

#highfivesathlete Yvonne Michaud tells her story through kayaking

Goal 2: Doing whitewater in a hard shell kayak.

Yvonne hit the bike in her first goal, and is now taking her talents into the water. Read about her story, her motivations, and how she’s pushing herself each and every day.

IMG_0887
First_whitewater
After breaking my T11 vertebrae and injuring my spinal cord in a mountain biking crash, I’ve personally sought to balance adapting and recovering. I strive for my activities to challenge my physical limits, and hopefully help me push past them. That’s why, when I moved to Oregon in 2016, I knew I’d want to explore whitewater kayaking.
I grew up swimming and have always been pretty comfortable in water, but a little less-so since my injury. When I started kayaking, I stuck to flat lakes and rivers where I could build some confidence. After a few months of building basic skills in a hard shell kayak, I got the chance to go down some class II and class III rapids on the Santiam River in an inflatable kayak. It was an absolute blast! Reading the water and making technical maneuvers to get down the river was freeing. The experience also reminded me of what it felt like to mountain bike.
First_whitewater_2
The advantages of the inflatable kayak over a hard shell, were that it bounced off rocks in the river and was very easy for me to get out of if I flipped over. The disadvantage was that it didn’t hold my lower body in place so I wasn’t able to paddle with much power or precision. After that trip, I made it a goal to progress my skills in a hard shell boat so that I could paddle more effectively and safely.
By 2018 I had upgraded my hard shell boat to something that fit me better, and was ready to try it in white water. I’m not going to lie and say I was all confidence. I was terrified that I was going to get flipped over in the water and be unable to exit my boat, even though I had practiced several wet exits in a pool. But I was with a great group of people, most of whom I had just met that morning for this paddle. Everyone was stoked to be on the water and my excitement won out over my fear.
It felt like I had reclaimed something my injury took from me - my ability to do action sports on my own terms. I love that on the river, nobody can tell that I use a wheelchair on land.

Yvonne Michaud

The run we were doing was 8 miles on the lower Clackamas River. It is class II whitewater and considered an excellent beginner stretch. The thing about a river though, is that once you’re on it, there’s only one way down. Thankfully, the first rapid, a giant rock garden, was right after the put in. I figured if I made it through that I’d be ok, and if I fell out of my boat and swam the rapid, I would still be able to make it back to the parking lot.

By the end of the run I was relieved to still be alive, and could hardly believe that I had overcome my fear. It felt like I had reclaimed something my injury took from me – my ability to do action sports on my own terms. I love that on the river, nobody can tell that I use a wheelchair on land. And though I do have to rely on different muscle groups than AB paddlers, I am out there in the same equipment as everyone else, paddling the same water, having just as much (if not more) fun.

The Arcade Belt Program

arcade
Belt_4

The Arcade Belt Program was put in place to provide our athletes with a system for setting goals. Similar to a karate belt system, athletes move through the ranks when they complete goals they set for themselves and receive a belt with stars corresponding to the goal number they accomplish.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ARCADE BELT PROGRAM HERE

Donate to an Athlete Today