Walk­ing on Wa­ter

Through Ac­cesSurf, ever yone has a chance t o ex­pe­ri­ence the ocean and the en­joy­ment it brings.


Ac­cesSur f makes t he ocean f un f or all

UN­DER A GLOW­ING SUN THE YOUNG MOTHER'S SMILE SEEMED TO CATCH EACH TEAR THAT STREAMED DOWN HER CHEEKS. SHE walked the sand pur­pose­fully, mak­ing a point to hug ev­ery vol­un­teer who helped her son. For the first time in his life, her son—who was di­ag­nosed with cere­bral palsy at birth—stood on a surf­board and rode the ocean's ther­a­peu­tic em­brace. The laugh­ter that mo­ment brought the young boy was im­mea­sur­able, a joy ev­ery boy and girl de­serves.

Pro­vid­ing adap­tive surf­ing and wa­ter re­cre­ation ac­tiv­ity as­sis­tance, Ac­cesSurf helps peo­ple with phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive dis­abil­i­ties to ac­cess and en­joy the ocean and beach. They lit­er­ally make what may be an or­di­nary day at the beach for most feel ex­tra­or­di­nary for par­tic­i­pants and their fam­i­lies.

“What we hear a lot is that our ser­vices re­ally em­power peo­ple. What that means is par­tic­i­pants are learn­ing a new skill and re­al­iz­ing they can do cer­tain things that they didn't think they'd be able to, and ul­ti­mately that tran­scends to the rest of their life,” says Ac­cesSurf ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Cara Short.

A non­profit, so­cial im­pact or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2006, Ac­cesSurf 's op­er­a­tion and rep­u­ta­tion has grown ex­po­nen­tially as they en­ter their sec­ond decade of ser­vice. Ex­pand­ing from their sig­na­ture “Day at the Beach” pro­gram, they now of­fer a va­ri­ety of ocean pro­grams and swim clin­ics, in­clud­ing a “Wounded War­rior Day at the Beach” for in­jured or dis­abled ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers or vet­er­ans. Ev­ery pro­gram is free, and their “Day at the Beach” pro­grams don't re­quire any pre­reg­is­tra­tion. They en­cour­age new par­tic­i­pants and their fam­i­lies to come down to give their ser­vices a try or to ob­serve if they're cu­ri­ous. Col­lec­tively, Ac­cesSurf pro­grams have pro­vided more than 3,000 in­di­vid­ual ocean ex­pe­ri­ences for par­tic­i­pants. “Ac­cesSurf was started by Mark Mar­ble, a recre­ational ther­a­pist, and Rich Ju­lian, a wheel­chair adap­tive ath­lete. Es­sen­tially they got to­gether be­cause they re­al­ized there was no ac­cess to the ocean for peo­ple ei­ther re­cov­er­ing from an in­jury or who have had a dis­abil­ity their whole life,” says Short. “They found out peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties weren't go­ing to the beach be­cause they couldn't, and didn't want to ask their fam­ily and friends be­cause they felt like they were al­ready a bur­den to them.”

The con­cept that the ocean is ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one is the foun­da­tion Ac­cesSurf stands on. Rec­og­niz­ing and wel­com­ing all peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, a few con­di­tions they cater to in­clude: autism, cere­bral palsy, ADHD, PTSD, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, down syn­drome, and spinal cord and brain in­juries.

Un­less other­wise spec­i­fied on their web­site or so­cial me­dia, Ac­cesSurf hosts their “Day at the Beach” pro­gram at White Plains beach in Ewa Beach on the first Satur­day of each month. The pro­gram is open to any per­son—young or older—who has a dis­abil­ity.

At 8:30 a.m. par­tic­i­pants and their fam­i­lies gather with staff mem­bers and vol­un­teers for a wel­come cir­cle. Trained vol­un­teers then as­sist each par­tic­i­pant with any need they may have. From trans­fer to the wa­ter and equip­ment fit­ting, to tan­dem surf and swim sup­port, or just as some­one to chat with, Ac­cesSurf 's vol­un­teer base is the lifeblood of each pro­gram.

“Our en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion is al­most com­pletely run by vol­un­teers. At “Day at the Beach” or any of our other pro­grams it's that force of peo­ple that makes it hap­pen,” says Short—who notes that since their in­cep­tion the vol­un­teer base has grown from six to over 300.

Their ser­vices have been rec­og­nized by the In­ter­na­tional Surf­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and mem­bers of the Ac­cesSurf staff now sit on ad­vi­sory boards of the I.S.A. With the world­wide growth of com­pet­i­tive adap­tive surf­ing, Ac­cesSurf re­cently launched their Hawaii Adap­tive Surf Team (HAST)—help­ing to train adap­tive surfers for com­pe­ti­tion.

They also host swim clin­ics at pub­lic pools on O‘ahu. Pre-regis­tra­tion for the swim clin­ics is re­quired.

For par­ents, Ac­cesSurf is a place where chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties can not only en­joy ocean re­cre­ation, but also be­come mem­bers of a com­mu­nity they can feel a part of. Many par­tic­i­pants who were once shy and timid are now men­tors and am­bas­sadors help­ing oth­ers with dis­abil­i­ties find peace of mind and joy.

“At Ac­cesSurf, par­tic­i­pants are just like ev­ery­one else. They are more than just in­cluded, they are the rock stars of the day.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on Ac­cesSurf and their pro­grams visit their web­site at ac­cessurf.org or fol­low them on Face­book or In­sta­gram.

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