Côte d'Azur

We're headed to the South of France, to my aunt who lives in a house with no barriers. Just as well, since the hotels in that region are not so easy for wheelchair users. I've got my amphibic wheelchair in the trunk. As far as I know, besides California and Spain there are no beaches where you can get plastic wheelchairs with balloon tires so you can be pushed out into the water.

Of course there are some brave souls with strong arms who slide down from their wheelchair onto the ground and then crawl into the water; others have someone to carry them or to drag them into the waves on a tarpaulin. I must say that I prefer rolling into the water. So what I've done is to replace all the rusting parts by rust-resistant ones and swapped the ordinary tires for mountain bike tires. After these changes and a few other improvements the chair is fit to go to sea, and what's more, I can drive it myself, at least on the fine shingle of the Côte d'Azur.

So, next morning I take myself down to the beach. It's been beautifully cleaned and smoothed out with a machine. The sea lies calmly behind the protective moles. Sun-seekers are dotted around, absorbed in the task of applying the correct protection factor ...

Catching attention

But as soon as I get going, they sit up and stare, noticeably more so as I get closer to the water's edge. Is he going to swim? Has he perhaps lost control or is he intent on drowning himself? Well, he's got a companion with him, so there's probably nothing to worry about. The techno-freaks among them are probably worried about the wheelchair: Is the salt water going to turn it into a heap of rusting metal? Looks like I'm attracting a certain amount of interest. Many are now sitting fully upright so as not to miss any of it. Children who want to come close to get a better view are being restrained by their parents. Looks like quite a few of the adults are getting jumpy too.

Clear blue water

But there's nothing much to see: I just drive out till the water comes up to my chest. Instead of going under I swim out into the blue sea. A fantastic feeling. The only way of locomotion that feels just like "in the old days". The spectators on the beach start to lose interest and lie back on the sand. After half an hour I'm back, and Laura brings the chair to the water. Getting back into it is rather less spectacular. I swim backwards into the chair, and together we make it up the slope. If it's a little too steep, there are always a few people who rush up to help. After all they've had a good look...

Source: Ruedi Prerost, Wheelchair user, pro infirmis Schweiz