Inspirational People: Greg Mallory
Kayaking is a sport which allows you to meet people from many different backgrounds. On my recent Mexico trip I met and paddled with people from four different countries, spread over two continents. Those people were all special in different ways, but just for a little while I am going to tell you about a guy I met from the USA called Greg Mallory.
I find Greg to be an inspirational person for a number of different reasons. The main reason is that, as well as being a grade 5 kayaker, he is also paraplegic.
Greg describes himself as grade 5 ‘wheeler’ as well as being a grade 5 kayaker, I can vouch for both. In my time on and off the water with Greg I saw him paddle 20-30ft drops, and hop his wheelchair off of 18-20inch curbs (sidewalks for American readers). He has been kayaking whitewater for longer than I have been alive and has paddled in countless countries.
A skiing injury whilst in college put him in his wheelchair but Greg wasn't down for long. He was soon back on the snow as a cross-country skier and went on to represent USA at two winter paralympics, and numerous world cups. He started kayaking just a few weeks after being released from the hospital. A friend of his had a spare kayak and offered to help him learn in a swimming pool. His journey to the river was not a simple one, Greg had to come up with his own unique adaptive paddling style.
Without the use of lower body muscles, that I would take for granted whilst kayaking Greg has come up with his own paddling style. From forward paddling to boofing and everything in-between his paddling style gets the job done. Greg also makes a few outfitting modifications to his boats which make it better for him. He removes the thigh grips, and has a piece of foam which keeps his legs secured in the boat, and has a special piece of foam which adds to his seat.
Whitewater kayaking is a much a team sport as it is an individual sport. Getting to and from the river is where Greg needs a small amount of help. A long strap is attached front and rear for the rest of the team to pull him along whilst he does his best to push with his hands and paddle. Although this sounds like hard work it is actually easy going whilst on muddy, wet ground and down hill is a breeze.
A bit more teamwork is needed on portaging but Greg is not going to be the first one to say ‘I don’t think I want to run it’. In fact given the fact that he can only scout rapids from his boat he runs an impressive amount of hard whitewater.
So to conclude, Greg is badass and just goes to show that no matter how unlikely it seems, if you have the right attitude and a few people willing to help anyone can go kayaking. Greg’s inspiring ‘can do‘ attitude is something special. Greg was telling me he is surprised that there are fewer paraplegic kayakers out there, but he thinks with the large amount of war veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan that some of them will be interested in kayaking.
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