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  1. #1
    Moderator shawn alladio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Earth, USA, California

    Ryan Levinson, Racing with Muscular Dystrophy

    Ryan Levinson-Nationally Ranked PWC Offshore Challenged Racer

    LB2CAT 2009 National PWC Offshore Championships, July 12, 2009

    AWA H2O Responder Member inspires the Challenged PWC division to be created for others to follow in his wake. Ryan Levinson is a well respected waterman and triathlete, EMT, and now part of the PWC Nation.

    Name Ryan Levinson
    Age 37
    Race Boat Make/# I don't own a race boat
    Class Challenged
    Time for the race: 82m 27s
    Placing for the Race 21st Over All, 2nd Challenged

    Why did you choose the class you raced in and what does it mean to you?
    I chose to race in the Challenged Athlete division because it is far more rewarding to compete in a more level playing field. We only had three riders this year, but hopefully as word spreads the field will grow.

    I look forward to the day when the Challenged Athlete field is as deep and competitive as it is in some other sports I've participated in.

    For example, at the triathlon national championships there are sometimes more people in the Challenged Athlete division than in the Pro division...

    Another reason its rewarding for me to compete in the Challenged Athlete division is because when people are diagnosed with my disability (FSH Muscular Dystrophy) they are traditionally told to "quit athletics" or risk catastrophic muscle loss.

    In my opinion quitting athletics is just as likely to cause muscle loss.

    Life is not a dress rehearsal, my muscles are disappearing, it's getting more difficult to do the physical activities I love, so I'm gonna charge forward, appreciate and enjoy the physical activities I find so rewarding, and continue to physically thrive as long as I am able.

    Competing in the Challenged Athlete division brings awareness about FSH Muscular Dystrophy to the masses but more importantly it brings awareness about what may be physically possible for other people living with FSHMD...

    Your position as best you could determine on the start?

    What did you do the day before, any preparation?
    I checked and packed all gear, rested, and went to a close friend's wedding.

    I have enough experience with competition that nerves are not really an issue.

    The challenge I faced was having only 2hrs of sleep before having to drive to Long Beach. Lack of sleep has a direct negative impact on how well my muscles function.

    What were you thinking of the night before?
    We had to stand almost the entire time during a long wedding ceremony. I was mostly trying to think of ways to mitigate the impact that was having on my leg fatigue.

    Why did you choose the boat you raced?
    It was better suited for choppy water. Thank you Shawn for loaning the boat.

    What time did you wake up!

    2 Hours out of the race, what were you doing?
    Driving up from San Diego.

    1 Hour out of the race what were you doing?
    Kitting up, packing my race ski with the necessary safety gear.

    What was your first thought when you picked your position in the lineup for the start? What were you looking for?
    I was looking for a clean line. Didn't get one.

    As the start went off, and you passed the Queens Gate (harbor mouth) What was going through your mind?
    I pegged it but still watched everyone blaze away from me. I thought "crap, I'm WAY underpowered..."

    Then I hit all the cross chop from the wakes and thought "I'm glad this boat likes it rough".

    After passing Queens Gate I just looked for dark water and settled into a groove.

    How was the first 10 miles of the race for you?

    Almost too easy but I enjoyed the ride.

    WOT pretty much the entire time. I felt like I could have handled more power.

    Basically just relaxed into a rhythm and drove a straight line to Catalina as fast as possible... I think with more experience I might be able to get a little more speed out of that boat by doing a better job keeping the pump hooked up. There was a lot of leg fatigue but that's how it goes.

    When you came to the turnaround boat, how were you feeling? How was your boat doing in those conditions?
    I felt fine. Legs were fatigued, as expected, but when I'm racing I tend to just absorb the pain so unless I collapse it's not an issue.

    My legs only buckled a handful of times throughout the race.

    Half Way back did you hit a psychological or physical wall?
    No, not really. My physical 'wall' is sort of always there, so it's not like I suddenly hit it.

    Half way back I was mostly scrambling to find any possible way to get the boat to move faster.

    The only mental blip was when I watched a column of five boats off my port beam steer a course about 5-10 degrees higher than my line.

    I was trying to figure out why they were doing that. In the end I trusted my GPS and it proved to be the right decision.

    It saved some real time. Many of the riders in that group were on supercharged boats and were well ahead of me at the turnaround but I closed the gap significantly by the finish.

    All in all I enjoyed the second half more than the first half mainly because I got to battle a bit.

    Any mechanicals failures?
    None. Shawn Alladio, Mark Gerner, Aaron Cress and crew did an amazing job prepping the ski. Much thanks and respect!

    Did you have any 'Battles' during the race with other competitors you especially enjoyed?
    Yeah. I didn't know who it was at the time but Mike Arnold was at the tail end of the column that split away on the way back.

    There was also some guy posting off my starboard quarter following my rhumb line. He would close then I would pull away then we would close and so on.

    As we approached the Gate a large ship started moving across the channel opening. The "lost column" was coming in from slightly above the gate so they mostly pinched across the ship's bow.

    A few riders, including me and my shadow, decided to pass astern.

    Going astern was, in my opinion, the best choice (for a bunch of reasons).

    The fun part was watching the less experienced riders begin their approach by aiming well astern of the ship and then ending up riding a large arc as the ship continued to move forward. From experience I knew to aim more amidship and ride a more direct line towards the finish as the ship moved across out of my way.

    This put me ahead of a few faster boats who then quickly passed me as they pulled throttle in the calm inner water.


    The Challenged Athletes Foundation http://www.challengedathletes.orm

    Operation Rebound

    K38 WaterSafety


    for a complete list please visit my website

    What advice would you give to recruit other racers to this event?
    A huge rookie mistake on the way to the island was turning back to check on a rider I passed who was sitting on a disabled ski. The rider was conscious and had their helmet off.

    They didn't look to be in any immediate danger, but I made the decision to go back and make sure.

    As I approached the rider one of the K38 safety boats drove up and signaled that they were on it (good job Justin!) but by that point I had lost at least a minute, possibly more.

    That mistake cost me at least a few places which is competitively significant when you consider that the winner of my division was only a handful of places ahead of me in the overall.

    On the other hand, I'm glad that I made the decision I did with the information I had at the time.

    When you are unsure of someone's status, and you have skills that may help, I think it's better to default towards "helping" rather than just driving by and hoping no one is getting burned.

    A good friend recently reenforced that lesson through her own actions...

    But the same good friend told me I was idiot all things considered for going back during the race.

    Anything else you want to comment on?
    If I had the words to express the depth of my gratitude and respect for Shawn Alladio, Mark Gerner, Mike Arnold, and the rest of the team I'd write them here.

    These are the people who made it possible for me to experience LB2CAT as a racer and not just some guy riding a ski across the channel.

    Thank you to Ross at RPM Enterprises for embracing the Challenged Athlete division.

    Thank you to Sea-Doo, Bombardier.

    Thanks to Jason Johnson from Watercraft World Magazine.

    Deep respect to my fellow Challenged Athletes, in PWC racing and other sports, who are stepping, hopping, and wheeling to the line to prove that there is a place for 'us' in competitive sports.

    I was stoked and inspired by the incredible aloha shared within the PWC family. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the next event.


    About CAF

    our mission & values

    It is the mission of the Challenged Athletes Foundation to provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. The Challenged Athletes Foundation believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.

    It is the vision of Challenged Athletes Foundation:
    • To be a recognized leader in a movement through which physically challenged athletes are accepted and respected at the same level as able-bodied athletes;
    • To have a great and significant impact on each physically challenged athlete served; and
    • To reach out to the physically challenged community by providing inspiration, awareness and mentoring.
    For more information on the Challenged Athletes Foundation please call us at (85 866-0959 or email us at

    Visit Ryan's bio on CAF:

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Southern California
    someone is taking some time to put up some great stories ! thanks, sure makes me feel fortunate . . .

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