Surf’s up! The Myrtle Beach surfing season has begun. Coastal Adaptive’s first few Wheel-to-Surf events of the summer were in May, and they were a great success. The sun was shining, the crowd was smiling, and the waves were… terrifying?
Reflecting on his first Wheel-to-Surf event years ago, our good friend Ernie smiled and laughed as he said "I knew nothing about surfing at the time, but looking back at the pictures, it was the perfect day to go surfing, and I was absolutely horrified."
"I didn’t know anyone. I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect," he continued, explaining how his fear of drowning was a big hurdle when getting started with adaptive surfing.
Now, having participated in dozens of Coastal Adaptive events over the past seven years, including a trip to Costa Rica, Ernie is a seasoned surfer. He loves the water, and he loves the experience and energy of Wheel-to-Surf events, still attending regularly, often acting as a mentor to motivate and comfort those who are just starting. "Because people with disabilities," he said, "are one of the most underrepresented demographics in this country. There aren’t a lot of places for people with disabilities to get together… At this event you are in a place of comfort with people you don’t know because of that shared experience." And for many, the event enables a re-connection with the ocean. "What this event did for me” Ernie continued, “is it gave me the opportunity to have people there who are supportive and know what they are doing, to allow me to get comfortable being in the water again. Because by far my favorite thing to do was body surfing before my accident, and Wheel-to-Surf got me back in the ocean, so I will be eternally grateful for that."
Of course, it’s also the people who make the events so deeply special. Ernie expressed his admiration for the community and love of surfing with friends, sharing story after story about his experiences, from party waves with Brock and Biney to surf lessons with Kelly, and from morning sessions with Luke to training with Marcel in Costa Rica. Surfing is an incredible bonding experience, and even when the waves aren’t so good or you wipe out, he remarked, it’s still a good time.
Talking about Wheel-to-Surf events specifically, Ernie said, "We speak to recreation and sports management classes, and one of the things I tell all the students that might come is ‘you will get more out of this experience than the participants themselves’… from watching the participants’ families and the participants smile and have fun and not feel like they have a disability."
All-in-all, despite the initial fears folks might have, Ernie stressed, “I exaggerated all of that. It was not at all in reality the way it felt in the moment… it’s a really good time.”
Stoked to attend, participate in, or volunteer to help with our next Myrtle Beach surfing event? Check out our events page for updates! We’ll be in Surfside Beach and Cherry Grove soon, and we’re always carving out new events. See you there!