Adaptive Expeditions puts competitive sports in reach for those with disabilities
Charleston native Joe Moore created what he couldn’t find — a safe way to return to the water sports he loved as a child.
Joe Moore spent much of his childhood on the water sea kayaking, surfing, sailing and more. Life took the Charleston native to New England for law school in the late 1990s, where he traded water sports for winter sports.
Returning in 2011 to make Charleston his home, Joe was eager to get back to the water sports he loved as a child. This time, though, he had to approach water sports differently. A lower-extremity amputee as a result of a car accident in 2001, his return to the water wouldn’t be easy.
“I knew what I wanted to do, I just needed to learn how to do it,” says Joe, founder of Adaptive Expeditions, a Charleston non-profit committed to teaching those with physical and sensory disabilities to participate in the sport and outdoor recreation activities they love. “I wanted to learn how to do these activities safely, comfortably, and with performance, and then to share the same with others.”
When Joe returned to Charleston, he realized there were no programs or training opportunities for what he wanted. There was Special Olympics for athletes with Intellectual disabilities and there were multiple recreational therapy programs in the Charleston area. However, not one post-therapeutic adaptive sports and outdoor recreation program existed. Joe no longer needed or wanted clinical nor community-based therapy, and Joe did not qualify for the Special Olympics model, so Joe began a national level search for disability sport and recreation programs that filled that post-therapeutic niche.
“The Charleston area had never produced one single Paralympian,” says Joe. “Before you hit that elite level, you have to be a novice athlete, and that opportunity just didn’t exist here. Disability sport and recreation instructors and coaches almost universally have been replaced with clinically trained therapists.” Joe recognized an opportunity and a niche that desperately needed to be filled.
In 2011, Joe founded Adaptive Expeditions and it’s been his full-time job since 2015. He leads a team of volunteers to run 70 programs throughout the year covering a variety of water sports and others, such as handcycling, fishing, sailing, pickleball, tennis and basketball. Adaptive Expeditions is Charleston’s very first Paralympic Sport Club, a chapter of both Disabled Sports USA and Team River Runner and is an American Canoe Association Paddle America Club.
“There are so many reasons I do what I do: To see the faces of people getting in the water for the first time after an accident. To see people, learn to achieve and do things they thought they would never be able to do again,” says Joe, “these are the reasons that I cannot imagine finding a better way to spend my time.”
In 2019, more than 200 individuals with physical or sensory disabilities participated in one of the non-profit’s programs. Together, Adaptive Expeditions’ two core programs, Education & Training and Local Sport & Outdoor Recreation, included nearly 400 people, and certified 98 new instructors with NGB watersport instructor credentialing.
“Helping people gain greater ability to participate in the activities they love is really rewarding,” says Joe. “But it’s a whole other level of rewarding when you help a person learn life-changing safety skills, like teaching a person with quadriplegia or multiple amputations to roll from face down to face up in the water. That saves lives.”
Learn more at Adaptive Expeditions. Its signature event is the Chucktown Redfish Roundup, the largest sports event in South Carolina history where people with physical disabilities participate at an equal playing field as people without disabilities. The fourth annual event is scheduled for May 16, 2020. Registration will open soon via Adaptive Expeditions’ website.
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