Opening outdoors
Jim Holloway, like others who are disabled, is rediscovering recreational opportunities.
August 27, 2002

The Orange County Register

He caught a big dorado one day and three striped marlin two days later. On the day in between, Jim Holloway went scuba diving.
An ordinary trip to the East Cape?

Well, aside from the fact his party didn't catch one tuna and other species were slim pickings, the annual getaway to the fishing and diving resort in southeast Baja was typical.

Even if Holloway, 53, of San Clemente is a paraplegic and fished from a wheelchair.

For many, this might come as a surprise. But plenty of outdoor activities are available for the disabled, they just might not be as visible as handicapped parking spaces.

"There's a lot of people in the general public, disabled or not, that don't know about the opportunities," said Gus LaZear of the Outdoor Adventures Program at Casa Colina Centers for Rehabilitation in Pomona.

The Outdoor Adventures Program provides a means for the disabled to go deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, snow skiing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and even dog-sledding.

Holloway, however, opts to find opportunities on his own or with help from able-bodied friends. He has adapted and, like the disabled community, has blended into society.

"I think the word is getting out pretty well that people in wheelchairs are getting more and more mainstream," Holloway said.

"That's been a big theme over the last several years, that people in wheelchairs, especially paraplegics, can be mainstream in society and can do just about everything. They just need to do it a little bit differently."
Like reeling in a marlin.

For the fourth consecutive summer, the Jim Holloway Annual Tuna Tournament was held in the East Cape. At least that's what the half dozen guys call their informal fishing trip for the benefit of Holloway.

Bob Pasqua of San Clemente and Byron Reidenbaugh of Dana Point, who are among a group that gathers each week to swim at a San Clemente city pool, along with Holloway, came up with the idea.

"The whole trip is all about Jim, making sure he catches fish," Reidenbaugh said. "He's such a positive person. Traveling for somebody in a wheelchair can be a real pain. He just does not make it any hassle at all. He takes it as it comes and goes with the flow. It's not an inconvenience to him."

Adapting is a constant way of life for Holloway, who was forced to find a new way to fight fish in East Cape.

In the past three trips to Baja, they fished from pangas (skiffs), and Holloway learned to brace himself on the edge for leverage.

This year, they fished in spacious cruisers. Holloway found that sitting in a fighting chair did not work because he couldn't push off with his legs to get leverage.

He tried it from his wheelchair, but somebody had to hold his shoulders, and his chair kept rolling around the deck. Finally, he found a spot in the corner where he could rest his elbow on the gunwale of the boat and get the leverage he needed to fight fish.

"That's one thing you learn about being in a wheelchair," he said. "There's a lot of things you can do, but you don't do it the same way. You have to figure out the new way of doing things. So I learned a new lesson there."

It was a good thing, too, since he went on to catch and release three striped marlin on the second day of fishing.

Scuba diving was different. It was old hat for Holloway, who dropped into the water before slipping on the air tank. Instead of fins on his feet, he wore flippers on his hands.

"Everybody else is kicking like a dolphin," he said. "I'm kind of pulling myself through the water like a sea turtle.

"It's nice to be in the water because you feel pretty normal in the water. You're not really confined, and you don't feel so different than anybody else. Water is a nice equalizer."

Little wonder why diving and swimming are popular activities among paraplegics.
Just as he glides through the water, Holloway clearly has adjusted to swimming against the current of life.

"He's such a role model for the rest of the people in his position," Pasqua said. "He's never let what happened to him hold him back."

What happened to Holloway was a frightening accident on a treacherous road.
On a spring day in Colorado in 1983, Holloway was driving his truck through Clear Creek Canyon on a road linking Golden to Vail.

In winter, snow banks on the side of the road can sometimes prevent disaster. But the natural snow bumpers weren't there when Holloway began to skid on the wet road, and he went over a cliff.

"I don't know how far the drop was," he said. "I did a couple of flips and a couple of twists. Luckily I landed in the middle of the river wheels down, otherwise I'd have been in the water."

He remained conscious and thought to himself, "Wow, I just dodged one big-time."
"Then I went to try to get up and I couldn't move my legs," he recalled. "I go, 'Oh no.' That was that."

A message he received during rehabilitation helped him through his crisis and has been as big a part of his life as his wheelchair. He was told: Everyone has many options and there are several you don't have anymore. But you still have plenty of other options, you've just got to explore them and take advantage of them. You'll still have a full life.

Holloway has done just that. He even enjoys his favorite hobby of snow skiing.

"It can be done if you seriously want to do it and this guy does it," Pasqua said.