An ocean of possibilities – MidWeek

0


In addition to helping people with disabilities enjoy water activities, AccesSurf has been instrumental in installing accessible beach mats at places like Ala Moana. Pictured (left to right) Executive Director Cara Short, Director of Training and Innovation Ann Yoshida, Co-Founder Mark Marble and Co-Founder Rich Julian and his wife, Kate.

Spend any time on an island in the middle of the Pacific, and the lure of the ocean will come calling, welcoming locals and visitors to jump into its warm waters for a swim, surf or paddle. But for people with disabilities, a day at the beach can be more stressful – if not impossible – than enjoyable.

In 2006, everything changed when friends Mark Marble and Rich Julian thought together and found a solution to help people with disabilities participate in ocean activities safely: AccesSurf.

“There is a real focus on inclusion,” says Executive Director Cara Short. “And it changes lives.”

Short got involved in the organization in 2008 after seeing an AccèsSurf poster promoting a community ocean day. The nonprofit’s mission resonated deeply with the native of Canada, whose niece has cerebral palsy.

AccesSurf makes water and ocean activities, including boating, accessible to everyone.
PHOTO COURTESY 2SHRUGS, ACCESSURF

“As soon as I went to the program, I fell in love,” recalls Short. “There is something about energy and experience; it really changed my life. And it was only my first day as a volunteer.

Over the past 15 years, the association has created an ocean of opportunities for those who want to get in the water. Its Free Beach Days, every first Saturday, offer people with disabilities the chance to experience water sports with specialized equipment under the watchful eye of trained volunteers. On the same wavelength is Wounded Warrior Beach Day for service members which takes place every third Wednesday. The pandemic has suspended many of its programs and AccesSurf is delighted to restart some of its signature clinics with changes to keep everyone safe. A full program is available online at accessurf.org/events.

“We have basic programs, like Day at the Beach, where everyone comes in for an introduction to adapted water sports,” says Short. “Then we run smaller clinics, so if someone comes to Day at the Beach and wants to be more independent or increase their skills and technique, we now offer surf, swim and paddle clinics.”

AcesSurf’s mission is to create water-centric opportunities for people with disabilities, and a big part of that includes those who want to compete at higher levels. That’s why the organization created the Hawai’i Adaptive Surf Team program in 2015. Over the past six years, all 20 to 25 team members have competed around the world, winning medals at events. like the Hale’iwa International Open, the United States’ national surfing competition. , and the World Adaptation Championships of the International Surf Association. Upcoming, a team of 12 will travel to California to compete in the 2021 ISA Parasurf World Championship. AccesSurf was also instrumental in launching the Hawai’i Adaptive Surfing Championships, an international tournament that hosts more than 80 athletes from across the world. whole world.

Volunteers and participants are enjoying a beach day on November 6 for the 15th anniversary celebration of AccesSurf Hawai’i at Kualoa Regional Park. PHOTOS COURTESY OF 2SHRUGS, ACCESSURF

“We want people to know that there is a way, there is support,” says Short. “If adapted surfing is a sport that interests someone, we can help them develop skills and benefit from coaching, leadership and mentoring. “

During his 13 years with AccesSurf, Short has seen tremendous changes in the non-profit organization close to his heart. Moving from volunteer to program coordinator in 2012 and then to executive director in 2014 has proven to be a challenge for Short, but being part of an organization like AccesSurf gives him a sense of luck.

“I am so blessed to be able to make this work my job,” she says. “The experience as General Manager has been an honor and I have learned a lot. It certainly makes me proud to be a part of this community.

Volunteers and participants are enjoying a beach day on November 6 for the 15th anniversary celebration of AccesSurf Hawai’i at Kualoa Regional Park. PHOTOS COURTESY OF 2SHRUGS, ACCESSURF

“Running a nonprofit at the best of times can be stressful, but over the past year and a half it has been a challenge. I have been impressed with our community and our organization and how we have been able to adapt and still serve our members.

To keep its community engaged during the pandemic, AccesSurf has started hosting virtual events, like online exercise programs and classes to keep people in shape, as well as Talk Story Tuesdays, which incorporates interviews with aquatic athletes. adapted from all over the world. Much of this online effort is AccessSurf’s head of training and innovation, Ann Yoshida (see accompanying story on this page), who created the Fitness For All program which focuses on adaptable workouts.

“They’re all focused on water activities, like canoeing, surfing or swimming,” says Yoshida, a 2016 Paralympian. “I work with people and give them ideas on how to fit each workout.”

A full list of online events is available at accessurf.org/weekly-virtual-meetings.

AccesSurf and its staff of six are supported by a volunteer base of nearly 1,000 – including its board of directors, executive committees, coaches, lifeguards, therapists and more – and the community at its core. together whose members have given their support by donating time and money to the grassroots. non-profit.

“The key to our success is our volunteer support,” adds Short. “They made AccessSurf possible.”

For more information visit accessurf.org.

The heart to give back

When AccesSurf started 15 years ago, Ann Yoshida (pictured above with Executive Director Cara Short) was one of its first participants / volunteers. Since then, she has earned numerous accolades on competitive water sports circuits – including her induction into the 2018 Hawai’i Waterman Hall of Fame – and has also earned degrees in speech-language pathology and rehabilitation counseling, as well as a doctorate. . in occupational therapy. With hindsight, all of this allowed her to succeed in her current role as Director of Training and Innovation at AccessSurf.

“Society always has this idea that because you’re in a wheelchair you can’t, and I think I’ve shown that you can,” said the 2016 Sprint Kayak Paralympian.

Currently, she is working to improve the nonprofit’s programs and services, including its AccessBuddy program, an individual initiative that pairs participants with a volunteer to plan outings in their spare time.

“There are still a lot of people who are friends with their buddies now, and they’re going into the water,” Yoshida explains. “We try to provide quality services in the islands that can be replicated across the world.”

Part of this includes Yoshida’s work in creating online training manuals for the volunteer base and AccessSurf staff to better serve their participants. Best of all, these how-to guides will be available to anyone with internet access – find them online at accessurf-training.org.

Basically, AccesSurf gives Yoshida a way to invest in others.

“Giving back is the joy of living,” she says. “I didn’t do all of this on my own. There is a huge community behind me.

It’s natural for this Mililani girl to want to give back, it’s just in her nature, so even as an AccessSurf staff member, Yoshida continues to volunteer on her days off at community events and takes time to encourage others.

“It’s great to be inspired,” Yoshida adds. “But it’s time for motivation, for people to do something.”

Do you want to take that first step? Find out how to volunteer and donate online at accessurf.org.



Share.

Comments are closed.