At our regular meeting on Wednesday, October 11th, Kip Johannesen spoke about W.A.V.E.S. (Wheelchairs And Veterans Enjoying Summer), a unique and highly successful program he founded a decade ago to provide free boat rides and fishing experiences to handicapped and disabled people from all walks of life and circumstances.
Kip described how he began this venture following a crippling accident, and how the founding and operation of W.A.V.E.S., the many volunteers and supporters, and the thousands of disabled people he’s hosted have had a profound effect on his life.
Captain Kip is a master diver who was forced out of the ocean when a freak underwater accident broke his neck in 1983. It left him wheelchair-bound and unable to speak, the start of a long road back to recovery.
Over a decade ago, following Kip’s retirement, several boating people, including our own Michael Simon, and his own seafaring background inspired Kip to develop the concept for W.A.V.E.S.  He decided to make it possible for the disabled to share in the unique pleasure and freedom that being out on the Great South Bay brings, even if they are wheelchair-bound. 
He purchased the 34-foot Valhalla, specially outfitted to accommodate handicapped passengers, obtained his Coast Guard master license, and launched W.A.V.E.S. in the spring of 2007.
Kip related a number of anecdotes about the many disabled passengers he’s hosted over the years, and of the great sense of satisfaction and reward he’s felt helping them, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy a day of boating and fishing. Although disabled himself, Captain Kip radiates an uncanny optimism and gratitude, considering himself lucky to be able to help others while truly enjoying himself.
Fishing and pleasure trips are planned from May to November. For a number of years, once the frost came in, Valhalla and the WAVES organization headed down to Stuart, Florida. Kip recently ceased that costly operation. Now another organization is replicating W.A.V.E.S. in the southern climes.
W.A.V.E.S. is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization relying solely on donations and volunteerism for all of its operations. If you would like o help, check out their website:
Kip is shown above with Babylon Rotary President Frank Seibert and Babylon Rotarian Michael Simon.