by: Nerissa Cannon
One of the original Freedom Chair Trailblazers, Nerissa, now works full time with GRIT! Her own journey with chronic illness has made her very passionate about helping other people get the most out of life in spite of a disabling condition. In her new series, IT'S A GRIT LIFE, she shares how the GRIT Freedom Chair helps her engage in her favorite activities and live a life of adventure.
One of the main questions we get at GRIT is "Can I use the Freedom Chair on sand?" or "How easy is it to push in sand?" While I was in Boston I had the opportunity to go to Crane Beach and experience for myself what it was like to use the Freedom Chair on sand - all different types of sand. I won't lie pushing through the thick, loose, fine sand was really tough especially going up over the dunes, but once I got through all that loose sand down where it was wet, packed, heavy sand there closer to the shore it was really easy, actually, to move around, and really enjoyable it as fun to just take off down into the surf. I was able to move around in the wet ocean sand, and I didn't get stuck and was able to just get right back out and go up the shore right to our beach spot.
I had a lot of fun going to the beach, and I was eager, when I got back to Utah, to test it out on a different type of sand - desert sand dunes. My boyfriend Kelsom and I took a weekend camping trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. From the main parking area there was a winding, paved path that led to a gorgeous, scenic overlook. So, we checked that out first, surveyed our surroundings, enjoyed the view, and then we decided to see how the Freedom Chair did in the desert sand. Just like the loose, thick beach sand, of course, the desert sand was difficult to push through, but not impossible! A lot of people wonder if the front wheel is big enough to NOT sink into the sand (it looks like it might), but I had no issue with this. I got through the sand without it being weighed down at all.
For my trip to the beach as well as the trip to the sand dunes I used the 2.25" wide Sand and Snow tires that GRIT offers. It would have been so much more difficult without them. I definitely recommend using these tires if you are going to be going on a lot of sandy adventures.
With how much effort I had to put in to get through the sand, I cannot even imagine using a standard wheelchair with this. The extra advantage the levers give you cannot be understated. It would have been impossible without having that extra torque to power through these difficult types of situations. I was able to keep inching my way forward under my own power.
Unlike the beach there wasn't a "just-get-to-this-packed-area-and-it-will-be-a-lot-easier-to-push-yourself-in-the-sand" type of place. The sand dunes just kind of go out forever. I pushed myself as much as I could, but then I decided that it would be okay to ask for a little bit up help from my boyfriend, and he helped me through a small uphill section of the dunes.
Even though pushing in sand does take effort it doesn't keep me from wanting to do it. We definitely want to go back; it was a wonderful experience. And even though there is that effort pushing through sand, for me it's a great workout! For me, I enjoy the challenge. Your not going to be sprinting in sand, and that's okay! For me it was hard to get to this point but it's become not so much about going fast through different terrain, it's about really taking in what's around you. It's not about the destination and getting there as quick as possible; it's about "What are you doing while you're there? What are you trying to experience while you're there?" And you can experience that even if it takes you a little longer.