Joe Moore ‘96 is quick to smile, especially when the conversation turns to his favorite topic – adaptive recreation, a realm in which he is fully immersed as a participant, provider and expert at the national level. As an amputee who lost his left leg in a car accident, Moore’s mission is deeply personal.
Moore is the founder and executive director of Adaptive Expeditions, a Charleston-area nonprofit that is committed to providing outdoor adventure activities for individuals with physical and sensory disabilities.
“We aim to build a community where Paralympic hopefuls and outdoor adventure seekers can share ideas and common experiences, while having fun, pushing personal limits and redefining what’s possible,” Moore says.
Adaptive Expeditions offers programs and activities in at least seven different sports that range from surfing to tennis to yoga to kayaking. Moore says his organization has an event, a clinic or a gathering nearly every week of the year, and sometimes several in the same week.
“We’ve got a very active, engaged group of participants,” he explains, “and some of them include fellow alumni. We had 40 people come out for our last surfing event and some 15 or so always show up for our wheelchair tennis events. Even more turn out for the biking activities we arrange.”
A philosophy major who went on to earn an advanced degree in environmental law, Moore has always been active outdoors. He grew up surfing and boating in Charleston. And during his undergraduate years, he was the first certified sea-kayaking guide for Coastal Expeditions, Charleston’s inaugural outdoor adventure company. But after moving back to the Holy City from New England over a decade ago, he found a lack of sports and adventure opportunities for physically challenged individuals such as himself.
“I lost my leg in a car accident while I was in law school,” Moore explains. “After moving back here, I wanted to be an active person again, but the only organized activities for adaptive individuals were those focused on therapy or the Special Olympics. In my view, there was a huge unserved niche. I wanted to learn how to surf again and how to kayak again with a prosthetic leg, but nobody was addressing that need. I knew that I wasn’t the only person in this position, so that’s when I founded the organization.”
Adaptive Expeditions does more than organize programs here in Charleston. In fact, last year Moore spent a big chunk of his time traveling to other cities across the country to consult and advise adaptive programs and train instructors in adaptive recreation.
“I chair the American Canoeing Association Adaptive Paddling Program, so we lead training sessions at the national level,” he says. “We also help other organizations and sites such as state parks with needs assessment and risk management.”
A big part of the work that Adaptive Expeditions does involves customizing equipment.
“Each individual is unique,” Moore explains, “and for each person we have to custom tailor the equipment, particularly if they’re going to take this activity to a high level of performance. Of course, we have standard molds and bases, but we have to add to these things and customize them for nearly every single person. For instance, if someone has a spinal cord injury and they don’t have any torso control and no sensation in their lower extremities, how do we get them seated safely in a sailboat that’s really tippy? How do we get them situated in a kayak? How do we get them safely surfing on a stand-up paddleboard? That’s the sort of stuff we work on all the time.”
These days, Adaptive Expeditions is focusing more intently on its Charleston area programming. “We’re doing less training and less travel so that we can concentrate on the events and activities we run locally,” Moore says. “Our organization is at a point where we really need to prove that the model works. My hope is that we’ll eventually find funding for our programming, but I know that we first need to demonstrate how successful this concept is.”
If you gauge success by the smiles on the faces of participants, Moore and Adaptive Expeditions are already succeeding.
The organization’s second annual Chucktown Redfish Roundup, a fishing tournament to raise funds for the Adaptive Expeditions programming, will be held on Saturday, March 10, 2018.