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Ripples #63
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Ripples #63

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Compiled and Written by Lenny Giteck

Ripples art--smallArtist Explores the Ocean in
An Underwater Wheelchair

Sue Austin, a multimedia, performance and installation artist who happens to be physically disabled, has challenged many commonly held misconceptions about individuals in wheelchairs, and opened the eyes of untold numbers of people regarding life’s possibilities, no matter what one’s apparent limitations.

Austin began using a wheelchair in 1996 following a debilitating illness; she says her life changed radically for the better once she got a power chair. In 2005, she took scuba diving lessons, a liberating experience that planted in her mind the idea of designing and building an underwater wheel chair.

In a profile of Austin, Web site reports:

She developed the chair with help from dive experts who installed two dive propulsion units on it, as well as a bespoke fin to help with steering…She initially designed flotation aids, but in the end found that simple swimming floats worked better. “If you just put a thruster under the chair, all the thrust is below the center of gravity, so you rotate,” she said. “It was certainly much more acrobatic than I anticipated.”

As you will witness in the video linked below, the result is truly extraordinary. The video is of a presentation Austin delivered at TEDxWomen; the blurb notes that it “includes thrilling footage of an underwater wheelchair that lets her explore ocean beds, drifting through schools of fish, floating free in 360 degrees. In repurposing her wheelchair to create fantastical art, Sue Austin reshapes how we think about disability.”

Listen to Ripples, dear reader: This video is not to be missed!

To watch Sue Austin’s presentation at TEDxWomen, click here. To learn more about Sue Austin and her underwater wheelchair, click here.

Ripples Classic: May 2012

Limbless French Athlete Plans
Audacious Worldwide Swim

The above headline may seem like a bad joke, but it is not intended to be funny at all.

According to an article on, Frenchman Philippe Croizon plans to swim a number of open-ocean segments that connect the world’s continents. He has already traversed the English Channel, and his next undertaking will be between Asia and Oceana (from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea). Other planned segments include a Red Sea crossing between Asia and Africa; one between North America and Asia via the Bering Strait; and one between Africa and Europe across the Strait of Gibraltar.

In 1994, Croizon was changing a TV antenna on the roof when he was electrocuted — a horrific accident that led to the amputation of all four of his limbs. The now 44-year-old endurance athlete is able to swim with the help of “prosthetic limbs and fins attached to the stumps of his legs,” says.

Explains Croizon about the amazing feat he intends to accomplish (together with Arnaud Chassery, a friend of his):

“We are going to symbolically link the five continents, two little people like us, two little men, we’re going to be able to build a bridge between the continents,” Croizon said, according to the International Business Times. “That means that we’re going to bring them together. Which means no one is very far from each other. So even if we have different political opinions, or skin colors, or even with our disabilities, we all live on the same planet. And that’s the clear message we want to send.”

Video: To watch Philippe Croizon discussing his plans, click here
Update: In August 2012, Croizon swam the final segment in his plan to symbolically link all five continents. To learn more about his stupendous feat, click here.

And with that, Ripples once again says…
Until next time, happy watershaping to you!

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