After a life-altering incident, Kendra Erhardt had to let go of her passion for downhill skiing, but she’s now channelling that energy into adaptive water skiing.
Erhardt grew up on the snowy downhill slopes, but in March 2019 her life changed forever after a skiing accident. She hit a tree at 70 km/h while skiing in a black diamond run in Jasper, Alta.
Female skier takes terrifying tumble down 300-metre cliff in Alaska
“I obliterated one vertebra and then severed my spinal cord and broke my back and a few ribs as well. Now I’m a full-time wheelchair user and a big adjustment,” said Erhardt.
“In the fresh days of injury, tears are cried, and you have to mourn the loss of your old life. Things are different and I can’t do the things I used to. But there is so much potential for things to still do,”
In 2022 Erhardt attended the ‘Give it A Go’ Adaptive Clinic, a water-ski event that gives people with disabilities an opportunity to try out the water sport and compete. The categories include seated skiing, standing and vision-impaired.
‘Give it a Go’ breaks down barriers for athletes living with a disability
“I enjoyed it so much. The freedom of being on the water and out of the wheelchair and being able to go fast again. Falling on the water is a little more forgiving than falling on the snow,” said Erhardt.
The 31-year-old’s passion for the open water has led her to make the roster of the 2023 Canadian National Adaptive Water Ski Team.
Water-ski coach Todd Schafer provides a spot for the team to train during the summer season, a man-made lake on his property.
“I had never been involved in adaptive water-skiing at all. I didn’t know I was digging the lake to host all of these amazing athletes, and this is one of the most inspiring things I have ever been a part of. And I can’t get enough of it,” Schafer said.
Erhardt says her teammates are a constant source of inspiration and they are warmly welcomed by the able-body skiing community.
“Some are blind, deaf and blind, wheelchair users, amputees; it’s super cool that the sport meets everyone where they are at,” said Erhardt.
Erhardt says it’s now crunch time for the members of the team, as the Canadian national championships will be held at Shalom Park in Edmonton Aug. 8 to 13.
“There is still life to be lived. Even though it looks a little different, it isn’t the future I had imagined for myself, or any had imagined for me. But life goes on. There are lots of opportunities out there, so it’s fun,” Erhardt said.
The next ‘Give it a Go’ adaptive waterski clinics will be held at Little Bow Provincial Park in Champion, Alta., on Aug. 13 and 20.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.