Activities Equipment Reviews

The Hippocampe All-Terrain Beach Wheelchair with WheelEEZ© Balloon Wheels

We absolutely love the adaptability of our Hippocampe Beach Wheelchair. It is so important to have the right wheels to tackle the different terrain you encounter. It’s like having that right pair of shoes for every occasion.

As our Finlay grows from child to youth/adult the equipment he uses needs to grow along with him. Pushing Finlay in his Hippocampe across the sand has become more physical in recent years. We have been using the standard double mountain-bike wheels it came with. Pushing is still doable, but not as effortless as it once was when the load was lighter.

“Balloon wheels are different from any other wheels”


After a recent trip to Hot Water Beach we found pushing Finlay across the softer sand challenging. At the recent Show Your Ability Expo in Auckland we had a chat with Beachwheels New Zealand, who advised that balloon wheels would make all the difference. So, last weekend Mike from Beachwheels delivered to Finlay’s home his very own WheelEEZ© balloon wheels.

We were very excited to give them a whirl!

The balloon wheels are surprising lightweight and extremely easy to attach. An additional strengthening bar has been engineered to connect onto the existing Hippocampe axle.

Vipamat, the French manufacturer of the Hippocampe, do supply their own make of balloon wheels which are generally white in colour. However, the WheelEEZ© balloon wheels work just as well and are a lot lighter and more affordable.

Image shows WheelEEZ© balloon wheels with an extra attachment to the axle for strengthening.


Gone are the days of manually lifting or even assisting Finlay with a standing transfer. It’s now become the odd two-person lift or the mobile hoist. Finlay possesses a strong pelvic extensor thrust, which makes positioning a challenge even after hoisting him into any chair. As the chair doesn’t come with a ’tilt-in-space’ option we use gravity instead by tipping the light frame back. Once Finlay is securely in place it’s all go from there.

The Beach

We found the 15-minute journey along the pavement to the beach effortless. The chair is very light making it easier to push than a regular manual wheelchair. Such a novelty being able to cross the road wherever you want without having to stick to curb cuts. The one downside being a power chair user is having to rely on locating places to cross. In the Hippocampe All-terrain wheelchair we can cross just about anywhere.

The first thing we both noted was how smooth the ride was getting down through the softer sand. With hardly a gradient the wheels took Finlay off down the beach. I gave him a little push to see how far he would go rolling along the flat sand.

Being very sensory, Finlay loves the opportunity to engage in touch with everything and everyone around him. The Hippocampe sits lower to the ground with the balloon wheels giving him closer proximity to the rock pools and sand. He literally comes alive when he is given the freedom to interact with his surroundings.

Nothing like the real inclusion of having access to an entire beach.

We have to say both Finlay and I were very impressed with our new balloon wheels. They took the impact well along the rocks making the whole experience pleasurable.

The sound of the waves coming into shore always leaves Finlay enthralled.

We are looking forward to seeing how well they work along the dunes on the rugged West Coast next.

Performance in Water

We always enjoy taking the Hippocampe into the sea to give Finlay the opportunity to enjoy the water like everyone else. We do this using the standard double-mountain bike wheels the chair comes with. What we find is that we have to support Finlay from the back at all times using push bar especially once we reach the deeper water.

“In deeper water, the chair will tip back very easily as the front balloon wheel rises.”

Kimberly Graham

We haven’t tried to access the sea with the WheelEEZ© balloon wheels yet, but have been advised of the dangers in venturing into deeper water. The Hippocampe will tip back very easily and the chair will be sitting a lot higher in the water for any assistance. The front balloon wheel needs to be weighted at all times to keep chair stable. You will see many images/video’s portraying the Hippocampe in the sea with balloon wheels on which can be deceiving. The user maybe a lot more ‘able’ in most cases to jump out, they may be sticking to the shallows, or the standard white balloon wheels may keep floatation better. It is best to keep vigilant especially when venturing out with someone less able.

For more information

Visit and have a chat with Mike and Aisling

Also on our BLOG you might like to check out the following:

  • Our REVIEW on the Hippocampe All-terrain Wheelchair
  • And our EXPERIENCE at the infamous thermal Hot Water Beach

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: