Tag Archives: accessible surfing

Having fun with AccesSurf.

I’ve been having fun this summer exploring handicap possible water activities. There’s a lot to explore here in Hawaii and with a little or sometimes much help, I’ve found new sports to try.

It started back in March with AccesSurf. This is a great organization that brings a wide range of people with various physical challenges out into the ocean to swim, surf, paddle board and kayak. They have two gatherings a month, one for all challenged athletes and one for Wounded Warriors. http://www.accessurf.org

My first day with the group, they escorted my out into the water on a big-wheeled chair and guided me in swimming. It was my first time in the ocean in probably fifteen years. The volunteers were great, very responsive to any special needs. I didn’t actually do much of anything. They suspended me in the water and let me float. Truthfully, it was pretty uncomfortable since the life vest forced my neck into an awkward position.

After the swim came the part I was really looking forward to, SURFING! Okay, I won’t be standing up on a board anytime soon, but riding tandem on my belly out into the waves was exhilarating.  We caught three 3-4 foot waves before I had to let someone else have their turn. So much fun! I’ve wanted to surf since I was a little girl. Dream come true.

I now try to make it out every month. Last month they changed it up and had kayaking, canoeing and prone paddle boarding.

What is prone paddle boarding? It’s also known as traditional paddle boarding, which is what the Hawaiians originally did before stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). The board is more like a surf board but you lie on it and paddle with your arms. It’s a sport that I can do solo once I’m in the water, so for that reason, I really like it.

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

The guy that taught me, Mark Matheson, is a paraplegic who competes in long distance races with his team. His boards are customized with handles and an extra large wedge of foam to lean on and prop the neck up. We both went out and it felt so good to be doing something all on my own in the water.

Since then, Mark has offered to let me use his extra board to see if this is really the sport for me. He introduced me to a friend that he paddle with and the friend asked how my swimming skills were. Whoops. Not great.

So, last weekend I tried ocean swimming for the first time in probably twenty years. It took a lot of assistance to get me into and out of the water, but in the water wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t want to be in the water without either a floatation device or life vest but I didn’t feel completely out of control. I did take my life vest off and let go of the boogie board for a minute or two. Swimming definitely uses body parts I haven’t been using for a while. It’s something I’ll have to do though if I do take up prone paddle boarding.

My life has been quite busy with beach activities, farmer’s markets and local events this summer. The thing is, this is Hawaii. I can to do these things year round.

Surfing rocks!

sand Kailua

You my not know it but I have a disability that prevents me from doing most activities that require leg strength. I get around with a walker or mobility scooter which separates me from people. My forays into nature are quite mild these days – reading in the park, gardening on my lanai. I rarely have the opportunity to absorb myself deep into the natural environment.

Last weekend however I had the chance to participate in AccessSurf’s program. I was escorted into the ocean by two friendly volunteers who helped me float among the waves. I think it’s been at least twenty years since I’ve been deeper than me knees into a body of water other than a pool. It felt wonderful to just feel the wawes rushing around me.

But the best part was the surfing. Yes, it was a modified version of surfing aided by a whole team of instructors and volunteers but it was a blast. I laid down on a very long surfboard modified with handles on the sand and the team lifted me and carried be into the water.

My instructor Chris hopped on the board behind me and paddled out into the waves. It was a decent surf day at White Plains Beach with waves of 4-5 feet. Because of the size and weight of two people on a big board, I had to take the brunt of the waves as we splashed through to get out far enough. Luckily another surfer had loaned me his surfing sunglasses so my contacts stayed put. The water was so clean. I’m used to New Jersey water. This was totally different.

Just the ride out was fun but once we turned around and caught a wave, I was in love. It was so fun. Powering through the foaming aqua water was exhilarating. Floating on top of a massive expanse of liquid with some control but just letting the wave take you was so empowering.

AccessSurf provides this program once a month for disabled people of all kinds and also a separate program for Wounded Warriors. Through donations and volunteers participants are provided with equipment, instruction and even a picnic.

Here’s a video of my day at the beach. I hope to return soon.