Kyle Morgan led an active lifestyle — he pushed a skateboard, kayaked and rode motorcycles competitively. There was no action sport he wouldn’t try. But a bad decision in 2010 left him with a spinal cord injury, paralyzed from the shoulders down, with some movement in his arms but no fine motor control of his hands. Now considered a quadriplegic, his life was altered forever. He spent three years in a power chair, assessing and reassessing his life. One day, the chair broke down, stranding him in one place, helpless. For Kyle, that was rock bottom. He decided then that even if he was a challenged athlete, he was still an athlete.

A Challenged Athlete

He’d always exercised, but hadn’t done much of anything since the accident. When his chair got stuck, it reignited his desire for independence. Kyle talks about those early days: “I started pushing myself manually around my house in an old busted-up, raggedy hospital wheelchair.”Exercise drove him forward. Kyle regained so much strength that he competed in 5k races with a slightlyassisted manual chair. Now, he says, “I’m into fitness. I believe no matter what state you’re in, you can always be better.”

Bellyak and Adaptive Kayaking

Despite the success, he still missed the excitement of kayaking. As he tells it, “I thought my days of being on the river were over. I had a kayak, but couldn’t use it because… I couldn’t keep my balance or even grip the paddle.” He’d never heard of adaptive kayaking, and frankly, adaptive sports — active activities for challenged athletes — didn’t get much press coverage.A friend helped connect Kyle to Bellyak. Kyle remembers, “A kayaking buddy of mine found Bellyak’s Facebook page and shared it with me. From the moment I saw it, I knew I could use it.” Kyle reached out to Bellyak and built a friendship with owner Adam Masters. Adam was so intrigued by Kyle’s attitude that he lent him a Bellyak to try out. And just like that, adaptive kayaking in a Bellyak became a reality.

Prone Kayaking for Challenged Athletes

“It felt so good to get back on the water,” Kyle says. “The first time, in a pool, was incredible. The thing I liked about the experience was that no one could tell I was paralyzed. I paddled around just like anyone else would. I was having such a good time paddling around, I didn’t even realize the workout I was getting. After just 30 minutes, I could barely push myself back to my van.” Kyle loved the experience so much that he wants to share it. He’s been trying to organize a Bellyak group of others with spinal cord injuries. He tells them, “I get such a freeing feeling when I’m paddling around — it’s a feeling I thought I’d never experience again, so now I appreciate it all the more.”

In Training for a Real Adventure

Kyle gets to the pool as often as he can, but due to his injury, he still needs help getting in and out of his Bellyak. “One day, I want to feel comfortable hitting up a river,” he says. “That’s my overall goal. But for right now, I’ll stay in a pool and keep my wife’s anxiety level down. I’ve put her through enough with my adrenaline-fueled lifestyle.”

Adaptive sports, including adaptive kayaking, has helped revitalize Kyle’s attitude on life. It’s something he brings to his everyday life as well. “Just because I’m paralyzed doesn’t mean I’m going to live life differently,” he says. He’s learned to embrace his new life, appreciating each day and trying get as much as he can out of each moment.

Kyle’s new motto: “I may not have 100 percent, but I use 100 percent of what I have.”

Kyle Morgan is on Team Bellyak as an adaptive athlete and an active ambassador to help the differently-abled get on the water. Kyle is also “Chief Motivator.”

See Kyle’s story on video here.