LEXINGTON COUNTY (WACH) -- The Special Olympics is teaching athletes a new sport paddleboarding.
Travis Lutheran and his teammates have been training for several weeks preparing for their first race on Saturday.
The olympians have worked hard learning a new sport that can be challenging at the first, but Travis says they've made major strides on and off the boards.
"How much I've grown, how much it helps the core and I thought for the very first time I felt like I was sailing on a beautiful ocean," said Lutheran.
"It would be a preventive leisure activity sport for their overall health and well being," said Tia Gamelin.
Gamelin is an occupational therapist and loves to paddleboard.
She knows first hand how the sport can help athletes in their daily life.
During the last several weeks Gamelin has seen significant changes in the athletes' social and emotional skills and with a coaching staff full of therapists, they're using yoga to help the competitors balance better and build their core muscles.
"When you have low muscle tone that's typical of people with down syndrome, you lack the muscles that kinda keep your body in that mid range control, which are your core muscles and this is a sport, it's a fun thing to do that precisely works on those areas that are very challenging for people with special needs," adds Gamelin.
While the athletes are digging deep with their paddles, Gamelin knows the fun they're having is key for their lifelong health and well being.
"There are days when everybody comes off the boards and nobody is wet because they spent two hours on the boards paddling and never once fell in and that's pretty remarkable for anybody," adds Gamelin.
"This is so cool to be on this team because I see all my friends and the great coaches, the great volunteers that come out and give there time to us. It's what we are more thankful for," concludes Travis Lutheran.
Saturday's race is just under a mile and Travis and his teammates will compete against each other.
Gamelin sees a bright future for paddleboarding, already working towards next years goal of racing teams around the state.