Life Rolls On: Accessible Surfing


VICTORIA NOLAN: Anthony, you
went surfing this summer, right? ANTHONY MCLACHLAN: I did, yes. It’s sort of a new sport to
me, so I’m not that great at it yet. But I do love it. And I love being in the ocean. VICTORIA NOLAN: Well then, you
will enjoy this next story. It’s about the Nova Scotia
SurfAble Association, an organization that
promotes adaptive surfing and the only organizers of the
Life Rolls On event in Canada this year. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN:
Life Rolls On is the California-based
organization founded by world champion
surfer Jesse Billauer, who lives with quadriplegia. Their mission is to make
it possible for people with disabilities to surf. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN: AMI’s Laura
Bain and the Halifax team were at a recent
Life Rolls On event at Martinique Beach in Nova
Scotia and bring us this story. LAURA BAIN: It’s raining
buckets at this beautiful beach outside Halifax today. But the rain can’t
dampen the enthusiasm of the people gathered here for
the third annual Life Rolls On event. Caden Flynn has cerebral palsy. And today, he’s riding
high on the surf. CADEN FLYNN: Surfing is always
something I wanted to try. Whenever we went to the
beach, I would always watch people surfing and
wanted to try it, really, ever since I was little. But I was really
unsure about my balance and what that would entail. But once I heard
about this, I figured I should come down and try. Because I thought I could
do it, but just needed a little more support. LAURA BAIN: Caden’s parents,
Jennifer and Collin Flynn, watched the action
from the shore. COLLIN FLYNN: Yeah. JENNIFER FLYNN: He
didn’t sleep last night. He missed it last year, so we
made and effort to get here this year, rain or shine. LAURA BAIN: Luke Godin is
President of the Nova Scotia SurfAble Association. LUKE GODIN: It’s a
little bit rainy– not a big deal, because
you’re going surfing anyway. It looks like about 150
volunteers, 50 participants, who get to surf once a year. Everyone’s excited. Everyone’s smiling. It’s a blast. And we’ve got, I think, almost
100% return for participants who came last year. LAURA BAIN: Each
surfer is matched to a team of 20
or so volunteers. Adaptations depend
on the surfer. Some surfboards have handlebars. Most surfers lay on the
board and get carried in. In the water, volunteers line
up from shallow to deep water to guide the surfer out and in. LUKE GODIN: We know we
have the right people here to take care of anything,
should something happen. So it’s really about
just making sure people are having the most amount of
fun with the right equipment. GROUP: Caden! Caden! Whoo! LAURA BAIN: Luke
says volunteers work hard to transform
an inaccessible beach into an accessible one. LUKE GODIN: Well, we’ve
got about 100 sheets of plywood down, which we
put down ourselves the night before always. We’ve got a couple
of rolling mats along the sand to help
with the ramps themselves. Then we just have
accessible surfboards. We have some beach wheel
chairs as well, which help out. LAURA BAIN: Participants come
from all over the Maritimes, with a wide range
of disabilities. Special guest
Veronica Coombes, who lives in Shadyac
Cabe, New Brunswick, came here fresh from
a three-medal win in wheelchair racing at
this year’s Canada Games. VERONICA COOMBES: I haven’t been
on the ocean in a few years. I’ve never done surfing before. And it looked a lot of fun. So I’m ready to try it. I’m excited to go
out in the water. And it’s nice to have
other people in wheelchairs to experience this
kind of thing. LAURA BAIN: Nova Scotia SurfAble
Board Member Edward McQuillan says, often, just getting
to the beach is a big deal. Surfing is a bonus. EDWARD MCQUILLAN: I
think a lot of people who are able, can
walk and stuff– just, you take that for granted. And I know. I did beforehand. Because if you want to go to the
beach, you just hop in your car and go to the beach. But when you’re in a chair or
you have other mobility issues, it’s just not that easy. So yeah, it’s just getting down
here and being by the ocean and getting covered in sand. LAURA BAIN: After
about 30 minutes or so of riding the waves,
Veronica comes ashore, cold but spirited. VERONICA COOMBES:
That was a lot of fun. The waves were great. It kind of felt like
you were flying. Like, it felt like, once
you get on the big wave and you’re on top it,
you just felt like you were flying above the waves. LAURA BAIN: It surfers
like Caden and Veronica who make it fun for volunteers,
like longtime-surfer Kevin Dolan. KEVIN DOLAN: We’re all
here for the same reason. And that’s happiness and sharing
what we love– the water– with people who really can’t
get into the water every day. This is actually my third year
in the water for Life Rolls On. So every year, the event keeps
getting bigger and bigger. And I do it for
the smiles that I see on the participants’
faces, the excitement of this whole event. And the whole surfing
community gets behind it. It’s life-changing for me. And I wouldn’t miss
it for anything. [cheering] LAURA BAIN: The spirit of
the day here is summed up on the Life Rolls On web site– boundaries, limitations,
let them go. For Caden, it’s been an
opportunity to do just that. CADEN FLYNN: Oh,
it was so much fun. I’m a big adrenaline junkie. So I loved it when the waves
hit and I started going. Oh, it was great. It kind of feels
like you’re flying, honestly– like,
flying on water. It’s really fantastic that
they have these kind of events. I think it’s
important for people with all sorts of disabilities
to get out there and try things. And you just have
to seek it out. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN:
I loved surfing. And I feel like
everybody at that event were really feeling it. VICTORIA NOLAN: Definitely. What I especially like
is that so many people get involved– all the
volunteers and participants. And you can tell that it’s
a great event, because of the number of
people that have returned three years in a row. ANTHONY MCLACHLAN: If you’re
going to be in the Nova Scotia area next summer and
want to give it a try, make sure you visit
Life Rolls On web site, liferollson.org/events.

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