Maxim Ponomarev: how to re-learn how to walk and develop adaptive wakeboarding in Russia

How to get back on your feet after a serious injury, return to your favorite pastime - wakeboarding and try to fall in love with people with disabilities. Read it in the monologue of wakeboarder Maxim Ponomarev.

- My life turned upside down after a trip to Kiev in 2013. Late in the evening my friends and I went for a walk around the city and came across locals. Just during this period there were many radically minded guys, apparently, they heard Russian speech, which is why the brawl happened.

I woke up with a broken spine. I was immediately operated on, spent a month in the hospital, and after that I was sent home to St. Petersburg.

In the first weeks it was very difficult, I couldn’t practically move my legs, I didn’t understand what was going to happen and how to live on.

After a couple of weeks, I ended up in one of the best rehabilitation centers in Russia, which is located near St.

Petersburg, where I underwent an intensive rehabilitation course. I would like to note that I still have rehabilitation today, but then the progress was significant. The month moved in a wheelchair, but tried to get to his feet as often as possible, moved first with the help of walkers, and then was able to walk on crutches already.

Maxim Ponomarev: how to re-learn how to walk and develop adaptive wakeboarding in Russia

Photo: from the personal archive

About a year and a half before the injury, I accidentally stumbled upon a video on the Internet where a wakeboarder rode a boat between ice floes in Alaska . It looked so cool that I immediately typed in the search engine "where you can ride a wakeboard in St.

Petersburg" and the same day I went to the wakepark to try. It dragged me so much that I began to practice almost every day. Before the incident, I skated for two seasons.

As soon as I returned from the rehabilitation center, I began to go to the wakepark just to see friends, there I performed certain sports exercises. The guys offered to control the winch, then it turned into work.

At the same time I ordered myself a wakeskate, it was pretty safe (in my condition) to try to get up on the water again. And it turned out that the whole season of 2014 I skated on such a wakeskate: I got up with my feet on the board and just went back and forth, while slightly strengthening my legs (almost all leg muscles were involved in the work). At the end of the season I tried to get up on a wakeboard. The board was dangerous because I could catch the edging on the water and cause some damage to the spine. But here everything went well.

Maxim Ponomarev: how to re-learn how to walk and develop adaptive wakeboarding in Russia

Photo: from the personal archive

I knew that children abroad, in a wheelchair, ride, sitting on a wakeboard, while showing quite cool tricks. And since there was no such experience in Russia yet, the idea to create such a direction in our country was born by itself. I began to study what equipment was used abroad, my friends and I began to come up with something similar, made a design, I took a ride on it - it worked. At the end of 2015, I began to actively develop the project, talk a lot about it in the media, and attract disabled children. By the beginning of the 2016 season, we had a small operating time, we made the first chair and agreed with the wake park on free training.

The name of the Ste802Wake project has a double meaning: it is both a step to wake and a step to awakening. We are awakening new opportunities in people, opening new horizons.

There is no need for anyone to ask why you are doing this, you only cripple more people - there isn’t such a thing. In fact, we don’t immediately offer the guys to jump on the figures, we try to start training gradually, first just try to ride.

Maxim Ponomarev: how to re-learn how to walk and develop adaptive wakeboarding in Russia

Photo: Personal archive

The most difficult thing is to decide for a person in a wheelchair to take such a step, because many are accustomed to lead a measured lifestyle.

Even if they want to try, there is a fear that this is not for them. Our main task is just to remove such fear. In fact, I do not have such guys who would not go. Yes, not everyone succeeds the first time, but from the second or third attempt, they still begin to feel the balance and go on the board.

Now we have a new French seat with a low center of gravity, on which it will be easier for athletes to keep their balance, as well as a new large board.

The seat was presented to us by one girl who maintains an active blog dedicated to wakeboard and wakesurf. This was a very big push in the development of our sport. In parallel, already looking at the French model, we produce our seats, starting from the experience of the French.

Maxim Ponomarev: how to re-learn how to walk and develop adaptive wakeboarding in Russia

Photo: Personal archive

The main problem is the financial one. To organize the training process in parks, it may be necessary to equip an accessible environment.

I’ll tell you by the example of our park: we made a ramp for descent to the launch pad so that athletes could easily get to the water, put in a toilet that is suitable for people with disabilities. Pools for the most part are not suitable for training due to lack of accessible environment. In St. Petersburg, there is only one swimming pool where you can freely move around in a wheelchair. It’s easier with wakepark classes.

On weekdays during working hours, a winch is idle in many of them, so there is the opportunity for children with disabilities to engage. Parks are ready to go forward, and even if they provide services not for free, then on certain preferential terms.

More and more people are learning about para wakeboarding and are ready to help promote it. Now we have posted our project on the crowdfunding website, we want to raise funds for organizing training for children in other cities, making seats for them, and organizing trips to competitions. We plan to receive support from the state, created the non-profit organization Step to Awakening, and we will participate in various state grants.

We are trying to tell as many people as possible that adaptive wakeboarding has a positive effect on the children in the wheelchair - this is both physical rehabilitation and social adaptation.

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