Waterskiing helps disabled rediscover outdoors thrill

Jul 14, 2022, 6:15 PM | Updated: Jul 15, 2022, 10:22 am

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Think of the most thrilling day you’ve had recently. That’s the kind of day that ten people with neurological disabilities had out behind a ski boat in Tooele County Thursday.

Two Utah physical therapy companies have teamed up for more than a dozen years to help their patients feel the thrill of life accelerated.

“Oh my gosh. I popped up. There’s no way that I just got up because I was expecting to fall,” said Taylor Cutler, right after water skiing on a custom ski for the first time.

Once she started skiing, she did not want to stop. She felt the kind of excitement that comes from letting go, trying something new, and soaking it in.

That’s why physical therapists with Mountain Land Physical Therapy and Neuroworx put on adaptive ski days at Last Chance Lakes each summer.

“It literally means the world,” Cutler said.

She was an adrenaline junkie before a car crash five years ago left her paralyzed from the chest down. When she was in the hospital recovering, she said somebody gave her a DVD with examples of adaptive sports she might want to try. At that time, she decided she definitely wanted to try adaptive water skiing.

This had been on her bucket list for several years.

“When I had my accident, a lot of my hobbies and interests changed. So having all of these adaptive sports just gives me that outlet,” she said.

It’s the kind of activity that has motivated her in other aspects of life. Cutler believes that if she can water ski, she can live life with few limitations.

“If I can pop up on the first try, I can do literally anything,” she said.

Matt Hansen, a physical therapist with Neuroworx, and Rick Lybbert, a physical therapist with Mountain Land Physical Therapy, started these adaptive ski days 14 years ago at Last Chance Lakes near Vernon.

“I’ve always been very passionate about water skiing, and I’ve always been very passionate about physical therapy,” said Lybbert. “It seemed like a good idea to put the two together.”

“Everyone that’s come out today, they’ve never skied since injury, and probably never thought that they could,” said Hansen. “So to see them get out there and thrive, and have some fun is awesome.”

For people who have lost some of their physical abilities through life-altering injuries, waterskiing offers an opportunity to enjoy the excitement of cruising behind a boat at 20 to 25 mph with water spraying in their faces.

“When you have a life-altering traumatic injury, it changes everything. It flips their lives upside down,” Hansen said. “So, to let them know that there are opportunities out there, and things to do and have fun and still thrive makes it all worth it.”

Michael Hawkins went rock climbing for the first time a couple of weeks ago and decided to give adaptive water skiing a try Thursday. He had brain cancer two years ago and it robbed him of some of his physical abilities. He enjoyed baseball, snowboarding and backpacking.

“I think one disadvantage of being disabled is that you know what it’s like to feel normal. Getting it taken away, that’s hard. So getting back to it is a big deal,” he said.

He said cruising on the waterski felt like he reclaimed some of those feelings.

“It kind of felt maybe a little closer to normal day-to-day life for me,” he said.

For Hawkins, that’s the reward because he knows he might not have been alive today.

“There’s just a deep sense of gratitude to be able to come and serve this way,” Lybbert said. “I think everybody involved, the skiers, all the volunteers, it’s a great experience for all of us.”

The physical therapists share the thrills that make the patients feel so alive and they are ready for the next challenge.

“They are so inspiring, and they just remind you of how much we all have,” Lybbert said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Debbie Worthen

New KSL Podcast: Celebrating the Spectrum with Debbie Worthen

The KSL podcast lineup is getting a new show. "Celebrating the Spectrum" is a KSL original podcast that will drop weekly episodes every Monday morning featuring KSL TV's Debbie Worthen.
23 hours ago
Michael Houck

Three men facing disorderly conduct charges after staging a kidnapping for a YouTube video

Three men were charged with disorderly conduct after staging a kidnapping for their YouTube channel Saturday afternoon. 
23 hours ago
Michael Houck

WVC Police search for drive-by shooting suspect, one victim in hospital

Police are searching for a shooting suspect after hospitalizing a man Sunday afternoon.
23 hours ago
Michael Houck

Police investigate why man died after he was in police custody

Salt Lake City police are investigating the death of a robbery suspect after being placed in custody and sent to the hospital on Sunday.
23 hours ago
A group of teens vandalizing the koi pound at the plant nursery. (Courtesy: Cactus & Tropicals)...
Shelby Lofton

Teen vandals destroy koi pond, try to harm fish at Salt Lake City business

A group of teens broke into a local plant nursery in Salt Lake City, vandalizing property and terrorizing animals.
23 hours ago
(South Salt Lake Police Department)...
Cary Schwanitz

South Salt Lake water main break causes sink hole, road closures

South Salt Lake police closed off eastbound lanes from 3300 South to State Street Sunday morning because of a gushing water main.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Waterskiing helps disabled rediscover outdoors thrill