David Dipino –
Trey Kaufman’s passion for life and thirst for adventure have fueled a project aimed at helping him become the first quadriplegic to scuba dive with wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
The Delray Beach resident has been working with Fort Lauderdale-based artist Norman McMillan and his Free in the Sea Project, which helps people with disabilities achieve “aquatic liberation.”
Kaufman and McMillan are developing a seagoing wheelchair of sorts that will allow Kaufman to maneuver in the warm Caribbean waters off Bimini at 4 to 6 knots using his chin and sip-and-puff systems similar to the ones on his motorized wheelchair.
McMillan said Kaufman’s head will be about a foot deep in the water, allowing him to watch the dolphins swim.
“The design is a 10-square-foot catamaran remotely steered by Trey with as much freedom as possible,” McMillan said.
“I know where the dolphins are over there. I don’t feed them.
They just come to this specific spot each day, and that’s where we go.”We’ve done this dolphin swim with paraplegics in the past but never with a quadriplegic.
It’s a whole different dynamic we’re working on here.”