Brad Swanson (from left), Mike Shaw and Josh Dueck are hosting an end-of-summer camp called Testing the Waters to inspire kids while building skills and confidence. (Submitted Photo)

Trio helps kids test the waters

Inspirational leaders join forces to host youth camp to get kids in gear for back to school

Local youth are invited to test the waters with some inspirational leaders this summer before heading back to class.

Paralympic athlete Josh Dueck is teaming up with WHL grad-turned teacher Brad Swanson and pro skier and coach Mike Shaw to get kids mentally and emotionally prepared for school in September.

The three powerful community leaders are facilitating Testing the Waters, a multi-sport adventure/life skill building/before school camp Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. The multi-faceted camp includes paddle boarding Kalamalka Lake and learning bike skills and tactics before biking the picturesque Okanagan Rail Trail. The three-day brain-body immersion will also feature brain activation strategies, energy management, shifting perspectives, balance (both physically and cognitively) and accountability to yourself and others.

Nothing will be sugar-coated as the passionate leaders provide what they are deeming a truly once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.

“The three of us connected our dots and all passionately understand the importance of pre-adolescent teens building their own positive base,” said Swanson, who runs Kala Star Academic and Outdoor School. “Learning our unique strategies, children in our community will learn to live a full, balanced, accountable, positive life.”

Dueck, who won multiple medals for Canada at Games in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, added to his competitive successes in February 2012, shooting to international acclaim when he went upside-down and became the first sit-skier to land a backflip on snow – earning him world-wide notoriety and an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

He became disabled when he overshot a demonstration jump, at Silver Star Mountain, in March 2004, breaking his back and left him paralyzed from the waist down. He told reporters at the time, “I knew deeply and intuitively that it was a bad idea.” In 2013 Dueck gave a TED Talk about his experiences and he is now wanting to bring his passion to Testing the Waters.

“Nature has been one of my great teachers in life; exposure through sport has given me the opportunity to experience freedom,” says Dueck, with a true ear-to-ear grin. “Facilitating a camp like Testing the Waters provides me an opportunity to share that feeling through experiential activity, and life building skills, with our next generation of leaders!

“I look forward to exposing youth to breath control. When you are able to control your breath, you can control your mind. Control your mind, and you can positively control the experience.”

Shaw is an accomplished freestyle skier and coach who got his start as an athlete right here in Vernon with the Silver Star Freestyle Club ski team. His journey in sport took him to the top of the Halfpipe skiing world, coaching some of Canada’s elite up and coming skiers.

In late 2013 on a Colorado mountain, Shaw dislocated his neck, suffering permanent spinal cord damage. Despite landing headfirst into the snow, his legs rising up behind him like a scorpion-tail and his neck making that now notorious backward bend seen on a pez candy dispenser, Shaw says: “I’m the luckiest of the unlucky.”

He defied death but faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life getting around in a power wheelchair without the use of his arms. But now he is a miracle and is a high-functioning, incomplete quadriplegic, also featured in a Red Bull TV documentary: Mike Shaw The Healing Agent.

“I’m so grateful to have my independence, and beyond that, to participate in sport is nothing short of incredible,” says Shaw, who is pumped about Testing the Waters.

“An opportunity like this to give back to youth in our community is something I am truly grateful for. I feel fortunate to have had great sport and social leaders in my growing up years. Now it is my turn to pay it forward, igniting passion for sport and developing self-confidence. Youth today can do anything they set their minds to.”

Registration for Testing the Waters is available at All participants must be eight years and up and have a well-working bike, helmet, and life preserver. Contact with any questions or comments.


Mike Shaw (from left), Brad Swanson and Josh Dueck are hosting an end-of-summer camp called Testing the Waters to inspire kids while building skills and confidence. (Submitted Photo)

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