With paddle boarding quickly becoming one of the most popular crazes in water sports, there are dozens of people paddling out at Maunalua Bay on any given day. But Kailua resident Mark Matheson is probably one of the few in the crowd who can’t stand up on his board. Matheson has been paralyzed from the chest down since 1993, when he was injured in an accident. Now 50, Matheson will make his second attempt at crossing the Kaiwi Channel, aka Molokai Channel, July 31 in the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddle Board World Championship after his escort boat broke down at last year’s race.
He had always been an active person and didn’t let his accident change that he learned to ski and worked out in his wheelchair. But Matheson, who had been an avid surfer and scuba diver before his accident, missed the water. “AccesSurf got me back in the water ... They got me a paddle board that was a little wider and thicker so that it was a little more stable,” he says.
All of the money that Matheson raises will go to Easter Seals and AccesSurf. Easter Seals provides services to people with special needs that are tailored to each individual, and AccesSurf offers adaptive water recreation to people with disabilities. Matheson serves on the boards for both organizations and also was chairman of the board for Easter Seals. He says the money from the race will help support a variety of projects. For example, AccesSurf always has a need for new equipment like adaptive sporting equipment, beach wheelchairs and wheelchair-friendly beach mats.
“Since I was the chairman and I was doing the paddle board race, I thought this was perfect to use as a way to benefit my cause,” he says. “At first, all I wanted to do was paddle in this race. Then it was pointed out to me that this could raise the visibility of these two organizations.” He hopes to raise $25,000 for Easter Seals and $5,000-$10,000 for AccesSurf. To donate, log on to eastersealshawaii.org or accessurf.org. After all of his accomplishments the channel is a feat in itself and he’s the first paraplegic paddle boarder to tackle it Matheson remains modest. He says it’s all because of the support of his wife and his paddling friends who help him get in the water. He also would like to thank Maui Jim Sunglasses and Roy’s Restaurant for their help with the race.
“I am just a regular guy who had something on his list to try that turned into something a little bigger than me,” he says.
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