Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I think I was braver then even I expected on Sunday. On Saturday and Sunday, there were surfing competitions all over Waikiki. Tents were set up everywhere, and later on that night they were preparing for the Spam Festival. (Spam is HUGE around here y'all) Saturday, as I was enjoying watching everyone go in the water (and wishing I could, just to cool off), I spotted a big yellow tent with the words AccessSurf on it. In the distance, I spotted a young man receiving assistance in getting on a Surfboard from his wheelchair. Curious, I walked over. When I said hello to the Access Surf participants, everyone greeted me warmly. After asking which island I was from (and surprised and amused when I answered "New Jersey") they told me what AccessSurf was about. AccessSurf is a surfing team/organization for people with disabilities. Volunteers help participants get into the water and have different tools for whatever competitors need to level the playing field. I don't mention it often on this blog, but I have cerebral palsy and scoliosis. I've had CP since birth, and scoliosis since I was eleven. I've tried many things (and succeed at quite a bit, including bike riding) but I had concluded a long time ago that being a water rat was not a possibility, after trying to swim was a struggle.

"Would you like to try?" Asked one of the volunteers. My brain said: "Nahhhhhhh." My voice said, "Sure!" Sure? SURE?!? WAS I INSANE?
"Great!" She replied. After giving her my medical history, she told me I was all set. "Meet us back here tomorrow."

I was a little nervous, but also excited. Once I say I'm going to do something, (especially declaring it out loud) I do it. So I couldn't back out. Besides, if I backed out, then I'd always wonder what surfing was like. The next day, I was a little late because the bus was behind schedule. They told me that wasn't problem and urged me to go grab some lunch at the nearest place I could find. (since you don't want to not eat) The nearest place I could find was McDonalds. (yuck. But the sandwich shop was several blocks away) I grabbed a quick bite and rushed back. Afterword, I had to wait an hour because I ate, so they put me at the bottom of the list. Meanwhile, I got to watch the others take their turns. Everyone had a different kind of surfboard. Some had metal sides. Some were really wide. Some had handles. One of the contestants was even talking about putting a motor on his board eventually. A little girl named Sarah was just before me. She was so excited and giddy that her behavior was infectious. I didn't want to admit I was afraid when she was fearless. When she returned, soaking wet and smiling, she said: "It's your turn!" Gulp.

My instructor's name was Lane. ("Just think 'Life in the fast Lane' when you think of me!") "Have you ever swam before?" He asked.
"I waded in a pool a couple of times," I replied. The volunteers put me in a life jacket, and were debating on which board I would use.
"I think the board with the leather straps she could hold onto would be the best choice," Said Lane. I decided to agree.
"You ready?" Said a volunteer. She had a warm face and a sweet smile. I told her I was, but before I went out, I decided to mark the occasion for my blog. I couldn't take my digital camera out on the water with me (because that would be camera suicide) but Lane said he would be more than happy to take a pic with me on the beach.

You're welcome.

At first I thought we weren't going to go too far on my first time out, but I was wrong. I climbed onto the board lying down, held onto the straps (as instructed) and Lane held down my legs. "What I tell the little kids," he said as we were paddling farther and farther away from the beach, "is arch your back like your doing a push up and go up and over the wave. If you find the wave is just too big, hold your breath, close your eyes and go through the wave. Never forget to look out for mother nature, because Mother Nature's always watching you." Just as he said that, we saw our first incoming wave. I pushed the board up and over the wave like clockwork. "Good job!" said Lane. "Want to try and paddle for awhile?"
"No? Okay, that's cool."

Each wave was a little harder then before. At one point, I knew that I wasn't able to go over a wave and braced for impact by gripping onto the leather straps for dear life, holding my breath and closing my eyes.
"You okay?" Lane asked. "You did great!" My eyes burned, but other then that, I made it through. "Shake your head and blink your eyes." He instructed. I complied.
Soon, we were in a calm area of the sea, past Diamond Head. "Waves come in every seven minutes like clockwork," Lane told me. "We're going to ride one back now." I turned the board like he told me to. In the distance, I could see the beach. "Here comes one!" He announced. He paddled the board where we wanted to go and suddenly, we were caught by the wave. I could feel the rush of the wind and see us zooming to shore. I began steering like a pro, and hearing a skidding sound in the ocean below. Finally, the wave fizzled out. "Was that fun?" Lane asked. It was more then fun. It was something that made me proud.

Before I knew it, I caught the surfing bug. We went out three more times before calling it a day. The final wave was huge, and Lane cautioned that if I get knocked off my board to not panic. I gripped onto the handles again and could see the water around me. I steered the board while Lane held down my legs and was determined to not let the wave take me. We were almost near the beach by the time it died out.
"I don't know if you realized this, but that was probably the biggest wave of the day!" Lane told me. "It was over your head!" On the beach, I got complements from onlookers and the volunteers told me they got pictures of my adventure. They'll be posted online soon. At the end of the day, I got a trophy for my efforts:

Never in my life did I think I would even swim in the ocean, much less surf. I'm going out again next Saturday. I'd like to thank all the volunteers and Lane at AccessSurf for making one of my dreams a possibility. To learn more about this organization, go to http://www.accessurf.org/


  1. Wow. I am tearing up a little reading this. How awesome! Way. to. go.

  2. Thanks Hayley. :) It was a good day.