AVON, Colorado – Tred Barta gets teary-eyed pretty easily these days. Friday, it was hard to tell where swimming pool water ended and the tears began.
Barta, who lives up Salt Creek near Eagle, has been paralyzed from the chest down since the spring of 2009, the victim of a “spinal stroke” he suffered in April of that year. Since then, the host of “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta,” a hunting and fishing show on the Versus cable channel, has been learning to live an outdoorsman’s life while confined to a wheelchair.
A self-proclaimed “man’s man,” proud to help others, has had to ask for plenty of help himself. TV cameras have followed much of that journey, from trout and deep-sea fishing to hunting to learning to again ski and ride his horse.
Friday, Barta squeezed into a diving suit – with the help of his ranch manager Daniel Montoya, and took his first diving lesson in the Avon Recreation Center pool, with the help of Beaver Divers owner Casey Zwaan and diver Sam Wheatman. His time in the pool was a revelation.
“For the first time in a year and half there’s no pressure anywhere,” Barta said. “It’s the greatest feeling I’ve had since I’ve been paralyzed.
Zwaan, whose company offers a “scuba-bililty” program for disabled divers, said Barta’s not the first to have that feeling.
“Diving equals freedom – you’re weightless,” Zwaan said.
Before he was disabled, Barta was a certified scuba diver. But he acknowleged he was afraid the first time he got into the pool Friday. But his old skills came back quickly – although he’s going to need some time to adapt to being underwater without the use of his legs.
“You use your legs for moving horizontally – vertical movement all depends on buoyancy,” Zwaan said. That can be taken care of with weights and air in a diver’s lungs, he said.
“I’d recommend anyone who’s paralyzed to do this,” Barta said. I can feel muscles down my back to my rear end I haven’t felt in a year and a half. This has to be great for me.”
After a few more practice sessions in the pool, Barta, his wife, Anni, and Montoya are off to Hawaii to shoot another episode of the TV show. A group of Navy SEALs has been rounded up to dive with the local group, and Barta said he plans to do some spear-fishing while he’s there.
While Barta’s been tackling all the activities he did when he wasn’t in a wheelchair, there’s one more he wants to try – skydiving.
“I want to skydive and then land in the water for diving,” he said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.