Wetwheels Launch Immersive VR Adventure

Geoff Holt MBE DL launches groundbreaking 360 degree open water video adventure for land-locked young disabled people.

Pioneering disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt, founder of the Wetwheels charity that provides barrier-free opportunities for all disabled people to access the sea aboard specially-built, fully accessible powerboats, has launched his groundbreaking open water video adventure.

The Wetwheels’ immersive video has been created to give young disabled people, particularly those who have been shielding during the coronavirus pandemic, the seafaring experience on virtual reality headsets from their home, school or care setting. It will also be made available on YouTube.

At the launch, held at Treloar College, Hampshire, students were given the first opportunity to experience the trailblazing video ride and enjoy life on the open wave.

The high definition film, which features 360 degree boat and sea views, uses specialist software to bring the same exhilaration that a Wetwheels powerboat ride gives on the water to land-locked disabled people.

The project is the brainchild of Geoff Holt MBE DL, who founded Hampshire-based Wetwheels in 2011.

Geoff was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and uses a wheelchair. In 2007, he became the first disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain and in 2009, he sailed unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean.

Wetwheels now operates from Hamble and Portsmouth and locations in Kent, Cornwall, Yorkshire and Jersey - allowing disabled people to actively participate on a coastal boat ride to help build confidence and improve their wellbeing.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Geoff recognised the isolation felt by disabled young people who were unable to leave their homes, let alone get on the sea.

Geoff said: “My lightbulb moment for this video was triggered by a conversation I had with Juno Hollyhock, CEO of Southampton’s Rose Road Association, about how many disabled people were profoundly affected by ‘Covid isolation’ and needed to get out and about.

“Juno said that Wetwheels was top of her list to take the children to as soon as the coronavirus restrictions were eased because of their desperate need to get ‘air in their lungs’.

“This immediately got me thinking how I could help them and the idea of bringing the video experience directly to them came into my head.”

The video was produced by Soundview Media and ties in with the latest research into ‘Blue Health’ - the link between urban blue spaces, climate and health and how virtual environments might be used to boost wellbeing for vulnerable people. Find out more at  http://bluehealth2020.eu/research/

Geoff added: “There is something very special about being on the water. For someone with a disability, being at sea offers unparalleled freedoms. Your mind and imagination fill with things that once didn’t seem possible.

“The VR version of this film is important because it opens up the on-water opportunity to anyone anywhere in the country, not just those who are able to go out on the water.”

Martin Ingram, Principal at Treloar College, said; “The last year has been very challenging for many of our students. It’s wonderful for them to be the very first to try out the Wetwheels VR experience at its launch. We can see how they really enjoyed having such a fantastic time - even if they didn’t even leave our grounds!”

Find out more by going to http://www.facebook.com/wetwheels