COURTESY OF ACCESSURF
Professional surfer Arnold Dowling paddled a woman back to shore yesterday at White Plains Beach at Kalaeloa. Dowling volunteers with AccesSurf Hawaii, which holds monthly water sport activities for people with special needs. CLICK FOR LARGE
Disabled get access to water sports
Before she fell ill nine years ago, Makanani Marcusson was an avid swimmer, competing in freestyle and synchronized events in her younger years.
Then the disease lymphedema took away use of her legs, and now the 75-year-old woman has a nagging sense of guilt when lifeguards or family members have to drag her out of the water and into her walker when she swims at the beach.
But thanks to AccesSurf Hawaii, she's gone surfing, swimming and kayaking three times in the past three month. She said the activity has helped her lose weight and improved her health. More importantly, it's been life-affirming.
"It takes the despair out of you and makes you want to go on living," Marcusson said. "Plus I have two beefy hunks carrying me into the water. They say to put my arms around them. 'My pleasure,' I say."
Those "beefy hunks" were among 50 volunteers helping yesterday for AccesSurf, a nonprofit group that holds monthly events providing adaptive surfing and shoreline water sports for the disabled at White Plains Beach at Kalaeloa.
The group was started last summer by 42-year-old Mark Marble, a recreation therapist at Shriners Hospital. Many of his patients had expressed their desire to go swimming or surfing, despite their afflictions.
"We want to provide this seven days a week to most of the beaches here," Marble said. "So we're going to seek more corporate funding so we can keep this going."
The group has a partnership with Crocs and Crazy Shirts to sell red and yellow sandals, with some of the proceeds going toward the Junior Lifeguard Association.
After Oahu, Marble hopes to expand the program to the neighbor islands, as well as across the nation.
COURTESY OF ACCESSURF
Professional surfer Bryan "Uncle B." Suratt, 55, of North Shore's Sunset Suratt Surf School, helped balance a child on a surfboard during yesterday's session. CLICK FOR LARGE
Anna Chung's muscles in her arms and legs began to deteriorate when she was 10. Despite owning her own swimsuit shop, Chung, now 33 and in a wheelchair, had never been into the water before AccesSurf volunteers helped her, because she thought it wasn't possible.
The first time she hit the waves last month, she had a death grip on her board and fell a few times. At yesterday's event, she never fell off the surfboard.
"I closed up my shop just to come here," she said. "I put a sign that said, 'Sorry, went out surfing. Be back at 3.' And I caught five killer waves."
The toll of carrying her to the water and back was another big reason that she didn't attempt to go to the water.
"Now, it's so nice that everyone's here to help, and they want to help," Chung said. "So I no longer feel guilty."