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Kayaking adventures on Swiss Lakes

Unforgettable hours on Lake Brienz – an adventure for everyone, no experience required

Unforgettable hours on Lake Brienz – an adventure for everyone, no experience required

Gliding on turquoise water, surrounded by breathtaking mountains views – water sport on Lake Brienz has a lot to offer!

At first glance kayaking may seem like a big challenge – however, it is indeed a great experience for young and old, for advanced and beginners, for swimmers and non-swimmers.

Kayaking on Lake Brienz for people with disabilities

The Hightide Kayak School in Böningen was the first kayak school in Switzerland who made it possible for wheelchair users to go kayaking. In the following video the school’s General Manager David Storey tells us about his passion, accentuated by kayaking impressions on beautiful Lake Brienz.

Hightide Kayak School offers various programs for people with disabilities. For first-time kayakers a private lesson is recommended. This allows for the material to be adjusted optimally and it is possible, if desired, to go out on your own after a short time as well. But you can also go out on the lake in a group and spend some fun time. Also no previous kayaking experience is required. It is recommended that participants be at least 12+ years old; for younger people private tours are offered.

For everyone with a physical disability who has enjoyed such a kayaking adventure the school offers weekly training during the summer. Furthermore there is a one-week sport camp specifically for persons with physical impairments. Detailed information on the programs at Lake Brienz can be found here.

“Kayak paddling is not a competition. No need to prove yourself. It’s all about fun and recreation.”

Dave Storey, General Manager Hightide Kayak School. You can watch an interview with him about kayaking with a disability here.

A group of happy kayakers on a lake

Whether by yourself or in a group – kayaking is fun! (Source:

How kayaks can be adapted to persons with disabilities

Kayaks can be adapted to persons with disabilities in many ways. For example small stabilizing boats at the rear end, so-called outriggers, prevent the kayak from tilting. This is especially important for persons with coordination difficulties or fear of tilting.

Man in a blue kayak with outrigger attached at the rear end

Outriggers at the rear end of the kayak minimize the risk of tilting (Source: Nora Devenish /

Further possible adaptations to kayaks:

  • High back and side support offer more comfort and stability for high lesion levels or minimized rump stability. By the way, according to the school, kayaking helps to improve rump stability.
  • A trolley makes launching and removing kayaks from the water easier.
  • A comfort cushion improves stability and prevents pressure sores.
  • An adaptation for the hand on the paddle makes it user-friendly for quadriplegics.
  • A paddle holder decreases the weight of the paddles and therefore also persons with limited functioning of the arms can paddle autonomously.

A wheelchair user enters the kayak from his wheelchair using a transfer table.

A transfer table from the wheelchair into the kayak makes entering and exiting the kayak easier. (Source: Nora Devenish /

The Hightide Kayak School tries to meet all different kinds of needs to make kayaking adventures on Lake Brienz accessible to as many people as possible. Please contact Olivia Storey with questions about kayaking with a disability. The trained physiotherapist is passionate about teaching sport.

“I personally find being out and about in nature with my body just as freeing for my mind and it makes me happy to share my passion with guests with different backgrounds.”

Olivia Storey

The following video shows Olivia how she prepares the double kayak for quadriplegic Dimitri. After, Dimitri talks about his life and his joy in movement. In the last part we accompany Dimitri and his guide Andreas on an idyllic kayak tour on Lake Brienz. The video is in German, but the pictures are self-explanatory.

Quadriplegic Dimitri and guide Andreas in a double kayak on Lake Brienz

Quadriplegic Dimitri and guide Andreas on tour in a double kayak. (Quelle:

Kayaking is possible rain or shine

Kayaking is not only a ‘blue sky activity’: In rain or snow, the scenery becomes even more dramatic and guarantees a unique experience. Dry suites keep you dry and warm and therefore such conditions are hardly unpleasant. The tours are only cancelled in case of thunder or storm. How beautiful a kayak tour can be in the winter is shown in the following video:

If asked, Olivia recommends to beginners to make their first kayaking experiences during the summer before heading out during the winter. Some impressions of the kayak school in various weather conditions can also be found on their Instagram-Account – view some of them here:

Photo collage of people kayaking on Lake Brienz in various weather conditions

Kayaking – an unforgettable adventure in any weather. (Source: Instagram @hightidekayak)

Further kayak rentals and tours in Switzerland for people with disabilities

Due to “Kajakfahren für alle” (Kayaking for everyone) by the Cerebral Foundation Switzerland, a project which encourages accessibility of kayaking in Switzerland, the offer has increased during the last years in Switzerland. Kayaks for people with disabilities can currently be rented at four other Swiss lakes. Here are all locations and contact information:

Kayaks can also be rented from Swiss Paraplegics Association (SPA). A requirement is experience in kayaking – if in doubt, simply contact SPA as indicated on the form.

SPA also offers first experiences in kayaking within the “move on” sport camps in Nottwil and Tenero (not in Yverdon, however). Information about the sport camps can be found here.

In the front a boy sitting in a kayak, in the back a man in another kayak with the amazing mountain scenery of Walensee in the background

Impression of the kayaking trial day organized by SPA in Mols at Walensee (Source: © Swiss Paraplegics Association)

The kayaking experiences offered through SPA are organized by “Mister Kayak” Matthias Rohrer. He has a lot of experience with people with disabilities – he is featured in an article of this “Paracontact” issue on page 39. As the kayaking offers under are not specifically addressed to people with disabilities, the best way to contact him is directly: Tel. 078 954 33 11,

Collage of photos by kayak instructor Matthias Rohrer while guiding wheelchair users on their first kayak tour on Sempachersee

«Move on» sport camp 2021 in Nottwil: Matthias Rohrer instructs the participants, helps them get into the kayak and guides them on their first kayak tour on Sempachersee. (Source: © Tobias Lackner / Swiss Paraplegic Association)

Conclusion: Kayaking is an adventure for everyone in any weather – therefore let’s get into the water, let’s get paddling and enjoy nature! 😉

Have you ever been kayaking? If so, how was your experience? If not, would you like to give it a try?

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