Surfers help adaptive surfers "ride the wave"
Surfside Beach, S.C. —
There's a new look greeting surfers by the 13th Ave South public beach access in Surfside Beach.
An access damaged by Hurricane Matthew, is now the home of a handicap accessible ramp, made possible by the Surfrider Foundation and other members of the community.
Built piece by piece, it's now allowing adaptive surfers to roll their chairs down the beach.
"This is a family beach, so we want to make it as accessible as possible," said Johnson, who had help from Surfrider Grand Strand in requesting town officials allow for the ramp.
Johnson had an accident 7 years ago. He wasn't sure he'd be able to ride the waves again.
"He has told me -- and I believe it -- he was more upset that he couldn't surf anymore than walk," said his wife, Becky.
The ramp which helps him go independently to the sand opened Saturday morning. It's one piece to help him share his joy with other adaptive surfers of all ages which he did that day.
Saturday was the first time he brought his Wheel to Surf event to Surfside Beach.
"Days like this are the ultimate freedom for people like my husband and our other friends who have some type of paralysis," said Becky.
Courtney Faile and her mom, Dianne, watched the 29 other adaptive surfers from the shore until it was Courtney's turn.
"It feels like I'm flying," Courtney said, with a big smile.
Her mom was happy to see her daughter's glowing smile, riding wave after wave, getting help from groups of volunteers.
"It just gives her the freedom that she just can't have every day," said Faile.
Johnson said moments like that are exactly why he and his wife try to organize a couple Wheel to Surf events along the Grand Strand each year.
"The event was supposed to be like once a year kind of deal that I had started but the volunteers that came were amazing and they wanted to do more. They wanted to help people like myself surf more, like all the time, not just once or twice a year, they're just really good people," he said. "It should be normal that adaptive surfing happens around the Grand Strand.
Johnson said he'll continue to push for more access ramps in Surfside Beach.