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Thursday, December 2, 2021

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Each year, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center hosts two Day on the Bay events along with two additional sailing days. (Credit: MBAC) Each year, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center hosts two Day on the Bay events along with two additional sailing days. (Credit: MBAC)
 


Adapting to the Water

The Mission Bay Aquatic Center offers people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in adaptive water sports.
By Ryan Schuler
 

Steve Kaliszewski thinks he has the greatest job in the world. He helps enable people with disabilities to take part in activities they never imagined possible.

Kaliszewski runs the wheelchair sports program at Sharp Memorial Hospital and is paralyzed from the waist down. He’s also an organizer of Day on the Bay, a program that provides opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in adaptive water sports, including water skiing, kayaking, jet skiing and sailing.

Twice yearly, the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (MBAC), a program of Associated Students of SDSU in partnership with UCSD Recreation, teams up with Sharp Rehab Recreation Therapy and the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation to host Day on the Bay. Trained staff, consisting primarily of SDSU students, and specially designed equipment allow a variety of sports to be adapted to accommodate a wide range of disabilities, both mental and physical.

Kevin Waldick, assistant director of the MBAC, said the center holds several events with organizations throughout the year that serve people with disabilities in order to ensure that water sports are accessible to all who want to participate.

“Every year, more than 850 people with disabilities and their families participate in the accessible water sports program at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center,” Waldick said. “We take a lot of pride in that, and it’s a rewarding experience for both staff and participants.”

From 12 to 100

Kaliszewski originally created Day on the Bay in 1987 as a student at the University of Florida interning with Sharp. Day at the Bay was the student project that completed his internship.

At the time, Kaliszewski was working to adapt kayaks for people with disabilities. Day on the Bay evolved from this simple concept.

Originally, the event was held annually, but due to demand, it has expanded to twice per year, with two additional sailing days hosted by the MBAC. The Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation offered to fund Day on the Bay, and continues its support to this day.

“The amount of people we have touched and helped and turned on to sports is innumerable,” Kaliszewski said.

In its first years, only 12 to 15 people would attend the events. Now, Day on the Bay draws more than 100 participants.

“I have the greatest job in the world,” Kaliszewski said. “When you have any sort of hand in someone’s recovery and you see them do well, it’s so rewarding,” Kaliszewski said.

Feeling of freedom

Kathy Cook, a first-time participant at Day at the Bay who never believed she would be able to enjoy water sports, water-skied using a freedom sit-ski, sailed around the bay on an adapted catamaran, and kayaked using a special paddle mount designed at the MBAC.

“It is incredible the feelings of freedom, success and plain happiness that come when you have a disability and are doing something successfully for the first time,” Cook said.

 
Day on the Bay
The Mission Bay Aquatic Center teams up with Sharp Rehab Recreation Therapy and the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Foundation to host Day on the Bay. All photos are courtesy of Paul Lang.