Our interview series continues with yet another awesome adaptive surf volunteer, Andy Johnson! Andy Johnson currently lives in Lenoir, North Carolina, but is in the process of moving to Little River, South Carolina. He has a wife, Karen, as well as two kids; a daughter and a son. Andy has been a physical therapist assistant for about 20 years.
- How long have you been volunteering with Coastal Adaptive Sports?
Andy: About 3 or 4 years now.
- Describe your first experience with Coastal Adaptive Sports.
Andy: I had been going to the beach very often and had been looking to get involved with the community. My wife found the Adaptive Surf Project in Myrtle Beach. I love to surf and I work with a lot of disabled people in the physical therapy field, so I thought we should contact the group. We got in contact with Luke Sharp and asked to get involved with one of their events. Through them, we met Brock Johnson. From there, we were set up as volunteers at our first Wheel to Surf event, where we worked with Brock Johnson. We had no idea what we were getting into at the time, but it ended up being an awesome experience.
- What’s your favorite part about volunteering for Coastal Adaptive Sports?
Andy: Seeing people’s faces. Seeing people happy. You get people of all shapes, sizes, ability levels, and ages - from kids to 90 year olds. With therapy, I’m used to seeing that as well, but with these events it’s like seeing that through a different set of eyes while surfing. And getting to see these people enjoy it to the nth degree with their family and friends cheering them on is just an incredible experience. Seeing the joy on their faces is the best feeling in the world. You can’t go through that without getting a tear in your eye.
The people we work with are also fantastic. There are so many people who come back once they try the adaptive surf events once. The amount of work and enthusiasm the event volunteers and participants put into everything makes it the best experience possible. You also get to know the people and learn about their lives; seeing how happy they are and the support they’re getting is awesome. And seeing the adaptive surfers support each other is just a really cool thing to see.
- What would you tell others (participants) who are hesitant about signing up for an event with Coastal Adaptive Sports?
Andy: We get a lot of that, but what we say is just go to the event. You don’t have to participate, just go and watch and take everything in. Most of the time, if they show up, they end up in the water. The volunteers are really good if the people are timid, they reassure the participant that they do this all the time and that they’ll be safe and won’t have to go out of their comfort zone. Some people don’t want to get in the water at all, and that’s fine. Just being part of the community is important because they get to see people who are like them doing things they didn’t think was possible, and that opens up their world a lot. But 95% of the time they want to jump right in.
- How has Coastal Adaptive Sports helped you?
Andy: I’ve been a physical therapist for about 20 years and I’ve been surfing for about 15 years. The first time I caught a wave as a surfer, it changed my world immediately, and I became addicted to the stoke. I started telling all of my buddies that they had to experience surfing. Combining the love of surfing with the therapy portion of helping people and providing that stoke to other people has changed my world completely. Seeing other people feel the stoke I get from surfing is overwhelming in a great way and my world has opened up so much more. I’ve made a lot of lifetime friends through this group and these events, and it’s made me a better person. Without knowing these great people, I probably wouldn’t be moving to Little River, but I want to be closer to be more a part of everything.
- Anything else you’d like to add?
Andy: I’m so thankful to be a part of this. It’s been life changing - I’m moving 5 hours away to the beach to be closer to it. I’m very thankful for everyone involved, especially Brock; him and his wife Becky are great people to work with. I’m thankful for what they do for everyone, providing the stoke to the nth degree and going as far as they do to take care of people and open up peoples’ worlds to these things they didn’t know they could do.
If you want to participate in an event or become an adaptive surf volunteer like Andy, head on over to our contact page to sign up for an event!
Wanna get involved? You may also volunteer to help out with a Coastal Adaptive Sports event by clicking here.