In many places across the country a person can search “Adaptive Sports Near Me” and a bevy of sites will pop up. They will have pics of people having a great time, and if the Google algorithms do their job, there may even be something Near Them. It wasn’t always like that.
Nationally, in recent years, groups have formed to assist adaptive athletes in activities most take for granted. Coastal Adaptive Sports, for example, offers basketball, cycling, and surfing, as well as partnering with other entities to facilitate kayaking and track and field, plus other social activities. Locally in the North Myrtle Beach area, much of the progress occurred because people saw a need and then had the vision and stick-to-it-ness to bring the changes to fruition. The North Myrtle Beach area and areas far away have benefitted from the efforts of some people we want to highlight.
Luke and Erin Sharp and Brandon and Cara Bellegarde stumbled onto the first Wheel to Surf event organized by Brock Johnson, working with Kevin Murphy of Ocean Cure, where they also met Chris Skinner and Roni Tario and a few others at the beach surfing. It was a beautiful thing to see - people helping people, bravery, fun, adventure, newness, a victory of sorts. The Sharps and Bellegardes saw a need for safety and expansion. After all, there were no “Adaptive Sports Near Me.”
On safety, at this time there was no specialized equipment. It was a lifejacket and pool noodles operation. Many adaptive surfers were at risk of serious injuries. With little community support and very little money, training, or experience, Brock was already blessing people with his servant’s heart. Chris and Roni were brave participants in this great exploration. The emerging project just needed a little help.
Fast forward on the safety issues to today where a Wheel to Surf event involves hundreds of volunteers helping keep people safe. Those involved developed techniques and systems, such as having two volunteers in the deep, one on the surfboard, two in mid, two in the shallows, and a beach team. They even resourced Malinda Chapell with Coastal Adaptive and local medical professionals like physical therapists to learn how to transfer adaptive surfers safely.
As Wheel to Surf events began to grow, so did the need for volunteers and other supporters. Couple those needs with a vision of involving even greater numbers of participants, and the need for some serious networking and resourcing loomed large. Consequently, Brandon and others worked to form an official business with a mission to bless as many adaptive surfers as possible (they didn’t know yet that some of their success and developments would affect people way beyond the Grand Strand). They formed The Adaptive Surf Project, complete with board members, a tech team, and multiple modes of marketing.
Simultaneously, Brandon, Luke, James Samaha of Samaha Surfboards, Todd Sutz of Island Inspired Surfboards, and others went to work designing adaptive equipment - like modified surfboards - and procured large and small donations. Today, many of the designs for modified equipment used around the world came from our people here in the North Myrtle Beach area.
The Wheel to Surf events were now poppin’. Word was getting out in the community and online, and soon the need for volunteers exploded. They needed more people, but they also needed trained people. Brock worked again with Kevin Murphy of Ocean Cure, who became a huge help to Adaptive Surf Project and consequently Coastal Adaptive.
As it stands, Wheel to Surf events have hundreds of volunteers and dozens of surfers, who sometimes drive as much as six hours for a 20 minute surf sesh. And that’s just locally. There are now similar programs popping up across the country and even in places globally. These programs are using equipment and strategies that were developed by our local visionaries and helpers here in the North Myrtle Beach area.
Olympic and Para-Olympic surfing now events exist, in part, because of conversations between The Adaptive Surf Project and Olympic committees. ASP is changing the world. Now when someone near a coast in many parts of the world searches for “Adaptive Sports Near Me” they just might find something.
Coastal Adaptive Sports flourishes partly due to the success of the surfing efforts and also the coordination, logistics, and equipment provided by The Adaptive Surf Project. Now Coastal Adaptive serves hundreds of athletes in multiple sports and activities. Even though Coastal Adaptive provided a great service to adaptive athletes before, it has surely benefitted from the community support and overall energy for volunteerism and awareness that came from the rising tide of the adaptive surfing community. Oodles of people enjoy the fruits from the efforts of many fun-loving, people-loving, visionaries who pushed and pulled the movement into its burgeoning self.
Wanna get involved? You may also volunteer to help out with a Coastal Adaptive Sports event by clicking here.