Bellyaking at Camp PossAbility

Summer Camp and the Bellyak: A Perfect Pair

By Lauren E. Harmison


In 2015, I began a summer camp called Camp PossAbility. The camp is a one week adapted summer camp in Martinsville, IN. It serves young adults who are 18 to 35 with physical disabilities, who use a wheelchair, and have a typical high school diploma. We are the only camp exactly like us (that we know of) because we are longer than a retreat weekend, are not sports-only, and serve only adults with high cognitive function.

About our Campers

Most of our campers have physical disabilities that have affected their ability to participate in outdoor activities. At Camp PossAbility we change all of that. Campers participate in everything from canoeing, to bellyaking, swimming, adapted biking, playing sit volleyball, climbing adapted ropes courses, doing adapted climbing towers, ziplining, and more.


Camp PossAbility and the bellyak

One resource we were introduced to early on was the bellyak.  A staff member at the outdoor facility that we rent shared an article with me about bellyak and Kyle Morgan. Kyle is a bellyak adaptive-athlete ambassador who was using them. I was very excited about the possibilities and additional adapted opportunities for our campers, so I looked into purchasing our own bellyak. Luckily, we had some sponsors come forward in 2016 to purchase two of them. Our campers loved them and they are now a main activity at the camp. Campers look forward to using them each summer. Several campers have even done fundraising to purchase their own bellyaks because they loved having the feel of freedom on the water!

Bellyak Testimonials

Mason, a camper who is affected by a spinal cord injury, said:
“I like using the bellyak at Camp PossAbility because I get to be in the water without having to rely on someone for help. I get to be out of my wheelchair and can still move around! Being paralyzed, I was cautious at first about getting on the bellyak, but soon realized they were very stable. The bellyak gave me a good workout maneuvering around on the water. [It] was like I was floating on clouds and I didn’t want to get off.”

This Year at Camp PossAbility

By the time July comes around and camp week begins, Camp PossAbility will own 6 bellyaks and will have completed our mini fleet. We are so excited about the adapted opportunities that our campers get to have. Bellyak is a big part of those!


If you want to find out more about Camp PossAbility, please check out our website: We would love to have more campers and volunteers join our camp TRIBE!


If you want to donate to help support this amazing place, please check out: Camp PossAbility costs approximately $82,000/year and we have no paid staff, including my CEO position. Campers only pay $450 with their actual costs being $2100/camper. The rest of the funding is raised with donations and grants. We would love to have your support!


Thank you so much! See you on the Water!


Lauren E. Harmison
CEO, Camp PossAbility


Bellyak racers at the finish

Bellyak World Championships – Race Recap

On May 27th Bellyak hosted the first annual “Race for a Cause” as part of the Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville NC. Race day brought water levels on the high side of perfect! The Class 1 river felt like it was moving faster than it was had it been lower.  After an ambiguous mass start, 13 racers completed the 1.5 mile sprint from French Broad Outfitters at Hominy Creek to Carrier Park.

Bellyak world championships

Race Recap

William Blakely represented the adaptive side of Team Bellyak, winning the adaptive category and coming in 9th overall. Eli Masters (nephew of the founder) won the kids division, and Dominic *surname unknown* took the overall win. Genuine plastic trophies were given, webbed high fives were shared all around, and $72 was raised for Our Voice. Our Voice is a local nonprofit in pursuit of a community free of sexual violence.
Bellyak crew
All in all, the best inaugural Bellyak World Championships we could have imagined!

Future Races!

The team at the finish

More Heart Than Scars

Paddling rivers is fun. It’s exhilarating to put on a whitewater river and know that you are going to travel several miles with nothing but a paddle and a purpose built boat. It’s also easy to take it for granted. Getting in and out of a boat and using our arms to propel it forward may seem simple, but can be incredible challenging to others – adaptive athletes. Through the evolution of the bellyak however, we’ve discovered a way to open up the same exhilaration to the differently-abled too.

From Toy to Tool for Transforming Lives

Bellyaks started out as an awesome way to play on the river in a high performance toy designed to navigate whitewater. In the process of using them, we realized that eliminating the sprayskirt and shortening the learning curve of traditional kayaking doesn’t just offer an insanely fun way to experience nature and get a workout. It also offers a solution for adaptive athletes no other product does. Swimming (or kayaking) isn’t always that easy, or even possible. But, through an intuitive and easy to use package, bellyaks allow these athletes to experience mobility, balance and exercise in a new way. As a result, the bellyak has become a tool that helps people transcend their scars and focus on the experience of NOW and who they want to become. As a business owner, seeing the experiences of people like William Blakely and Kyle Morgan have made me realize how important this is. Far more than just having a fun way to go down rivers.

More Heart Than Scars

We’ve recently been actively looking for more ways to get involved with adaptive athletes and those who would benefit from our innovative designs. With this in mind, we set up a booth at our local MS Walk to support their cause and to introduce people to the bellyak. The first person we met was a big, friendly, bearded guy named Zackary Paben, or Nubs as his friends call him. Zack, it turned out, is the founder of an amazing non-profit: More Heart Than Scars. Their mission:

For people with More Heart Than Scars
& their loved ones.
From trauma to disease,
together we transcend
our visible and invisible scars!

How They Help Adaptive Athletes

Among other things, Zack helps differently-abled people compete in Spartan Races – innovative obstacle courses held around the world. In the past, Zack would rig up all manner of sled-like contraptions to get his competitors through the mud pits, under the barbed wire, and as a means of transport. A lifelong paddler, he had been dreaming of something that was light, tough, durable, versatile and stable for mud, water and snow that kept the person using it safe. When he saw the bellyak, he knew immediately it was the piece of gear he was looking for. And I knew he was the person and organization I was looking for.

More Heart than Scars and Bellyak pose for a picture

Our Partnership

Bellyak is the first official corporate sponsor of More Heart Than Scars. Our missions align perfectly. They will be using the bellyak as a lightweight adventure sled for their upcoming season of Spartan Races. In fact, they’ve already taken the bellyak out for a spin in the Charlotte Spartan Race, and had a great time:

“Bellyak made it possible for Jesi Stracham, Miss Wheelchair NC 2017, to surf the mud pits with more stability, independence and fun than any of our other spinal cord injured MHTS athletes ever have before. A new world of adventure possibilities has oped with this amazing versatile craft called the Bellyak!”

Using the bellyak for a mud obstacle




Using the bellyak for a mud obstacle

The team at the finish The cutest team mascot

The Future

Through our collaboration, we are going to help get many more people to experience the freedom and mobility of bellyak specifically within Spartan Races. Together we will make a difference in the world, helping show what’s possible and reinforcing that we can better transcend our scars inside and out, together.

For more information on More Heart Than Scars, check out their Facebook page:

Krista from the National Sports Center for the Disabled

Not just for Fun, how the Bellyak helps the Differently-Abled

The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) is therapeutic, recreation organization, based in Denver Colorado. The NSCD has been one of the first rehab groups to use the Bellyak in a therapeutic setting. After attending the No Barriers Summit (an adaptive sports gathering) in Telluride, we realized there is no such thing as disabled – only differently-abled.

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