Adventure Sports Improve Wellbeing

Adventure Sports Improve Wellbeing

personal photoSusanne Rees, 28, from Northampton, has neurofibromatosis, a rare condition which affects balance, hearing and dexterity.

As a sporty person she knows all too well that there are few adventure activities on offer for disabled people. In a bid to change this, Susanne set up IDID Adventure, which offers action−packed pursuits to people with medical conditions.

Here she explains how adventure sports improve physical and mental health

Independence and Diversity In Disability

Susanne explains that the name IDID Adventure has an inspirational meaning.

“The name IDID means Independence and Diversity In Disability. It was born as a reaction to the misunderstanding of the term disability.

“I wanted to make a point that disabled people don’t just fit a label. Each and every individual is unique and beautiful in their own way. This applies to sport too − I got frustrated that only certain sports were available for deaf and disabled people, ” she says.

paddling boarding with balance condition

Before IDID Adventure, there were few opportunities available for young people with health conditions to get involved in adventure sports.

“People with physical and mental health problems were able to access adventure sports on a one−off or holiday basis, but there wasn’t anything with continuous participation on offer, ” says Susanne.

Pictured right − Susanne paddle boarding in Sardinia.

Adventure Engages the Mind

Adventure sports play a crucial part in improving health − as Susanne knows only too well.

“Rock climbing has become an important medium to help me accept my disability and also actively improve my health. For years, I have been referred to specialist physiotherapists and loaded with countless exercises that as a young person, I did not find engaging.

“I realised it was crucial to continue my physio work, but wanted to explore how else I could do this. I noticed I could manage my balance problems and energy levels through a combination of climbing, wakeboarding and Pilates, and I slowly saw my health improving.”

IDID Adventure is about more than fitness and fun. Susanne’s mission is to improve people’s wellbeing, confidence and self−esteem through rock climbing, canoeing and wakeboarding, and other adventure sports.

“For us, adventure sports aren’t just about physical fitness and having a good time. We focus on these sports specifically because of the phenomenal benefits they bring to people’s lives. Building resilience is a big part of what we do. Adventure sports are crucial to self−development, as you are only competing with yourself, ” she says.

“The skills involved with each activity can help to improve communications skills, risk management, problem solving, resilience and increase independence. These life skills are vital to ensuring a positive future for young disabled adults. ”

Improving Lives

IDID Adventure has clubs in Northampton and Bristol offering exciting activities for people with disabilities.

Susanne comes across some poignant stories during the course of her work but one in particular stands out, regarding a long−standing member at their Northampton base.

“A boy joined our Northampton club when we had just finished the pilot project. He has CHARGE syndrome and is completely deaf. When he first began working with us, his confidence was very low. He was a competent signer but lacked the confidence to use his communication skills, and it was very difficult to engage with him.

“We worked with his mum and utilised IDID’s Sign Climb System© to enable us to provide full inclusivity. He began to connect with the volunteers more, and as his understanding of climbing grew, so too did his confidence.

“To see him now, you wouldn’t recognise him from the young man who first arrived using only two signs in his vocabulary. Now he supports new members of the club and has just begun our volunteer programme. He will also be representing IDID at this year’s BMC Paraclimbing series.”

How to Choose the Appropriate Medical ID

Wearing some form of medical ID is always a good idea.

“I think wearing medical ID is a great idea. Most ID products are in the form of a card, which is not convenient. If I am out on the water, a card is certainly not going to be in my back pocket.

“I like the idea of the wristband, especially in watersports. In rock climbing, a band may be less convenient as we advise everyone to take off all jewellery for health and safety reasons. Something like a shoe tag would be more useful here, ” says Susanne.

children with medical conditions rock climbing

Unlike paperwork or a card, she finds that ID bands are much more appealing to sporting enthusiasts.


“For watersports and winter sports, the silicone wristband is most definitely the most convenient. Given the culture around these sports, it’s hard to find people who don’t wear wristbands.”

Face Your Fears

Because adventure sports are quite rare in the UK, there is often a lack of knowledge as to what they involve − and a perception that they’re only for elite, able−bodied athletes.

“People are often unsure on whether or not they should give adventure sports a go. These activities aren’t really a mainstream sporting pastime and there is confusion over what they actually involve.

“The media doesn’t always help and usually the only experience we have is seeing adrenaline junkies or elite athletes performing at the highest level. Psychologically, they are already inaccessible.”

kids with medical conditions rock climb

Pictured right − The IDID Northampton gang getting ready for an indoor climbing session.

By facing your fears you’ll soon be hooked on all things extreme, says Susanne.

“Even the wildest adventurers had to start somewhere. When I first went wakeboarding, I’d seen all these really cool people jumping and twisting about in the air and thought, see you later, ” she laughs.

The prospect of adventure sports can be daunting for anyone.

“I have balance difficulties, visual issues and I am deaf − it didn’t seem like a recipe for success to me, ” says Susanne.

“After facing my fear, I am hooked. This was exactly the same for climbing − you’d be surprised how much it helps you physically and how quickly you develop.”

banana boat

Pictured above − Five IDID Adventure club members enjoying a banana boat ride at Grendon Lakes, Northampton.

Keep Emergency Procedures Simple

IDID Adventure teach young people how to manage risks safely. Ensuring that their instructors and volunteers are fully aware of members’ medical conditions is a crucial safety element.

“We ensure all members complete registration and health forms which are present whenever the club is run.

“Keeping good records and being fully aware of all conditions is essential. By ensuring we have emergency contact details and first aid trained staff, we can overcome issues as they arise. ”

Susanne believes that having in case of emergency details readily available at all times would make emergency procedures easier.

“In first aid training I have always been taught to check for ICE details. I do think something like an ID band would simplify the emergency procedures.

“I think it’s crucial to have either a form of identification or a representative who knows you and your history. It’s a precaution that is often overlooked. ”

Give Adventure Sports a Go

Susanne encourages people of all ages to give adventure sports a go.

“I can promise you that it looks far harder than it actually is. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling you get when you achieve something you didn’t think possible, not to mention, it’s so much fun. “