Scott Chesney, Reeve Foundation ambassador and star of the Reeve Health Minutes about how to get back in the pool after and injury practice what he was preaching last weekend. He sent us this report and photos:
On the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, 37 surfers lving with disabilities and over 250 volunteers gathered in Wildwood Crest, NJ for an amazing day of Life Rolls On Foundation’s We Will Surf Again program
. The day was absolutely gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky, about 80 degrees, and while the ocean temperature was a chilly 62 degrees, the adrenaline rush within every single participant, volunteer and surfer, warmed things up so much that not one complaint about the water was heard all day. There was nothing that could stop this day from being transformational for each surfer who arrived at the beach. I was certainly no exception.
Though I have used a wheelchair since I was 15, the result of a rare stroke, that teenager had a dream before he became paralyzed -- to surf. Being a Jersey boy, I had spent the majority of my summers down at the Jersey shore, Lavallette, to be exact. My routine down there was quite simple: wake up, eat breakfast, swim in the ocean for five hours, have lunch, swim for three more hours, hang out at The Ocean Hut Surf Shop, have dinner, go to the boardwalk, and repeat! My family had to drag me out of the ocean and out of that surf shop. The plan was to begin taking surfing lessons in the summer of 1986. Alas, I became paralyzed in December of 1985.
The dream had been extinguished, yet my love for surfing would never die. Any chance I got to watch surfing, read about surfing, or even talk to people about surfing, I was not going miss out on that opportunity. Surfing was a passion of mine…always had been and always would be.
Still, I had never believed that I would be able to stand up on a surfboard and surf the waves of the Jersey shore or maybe the Pipeline in Hawaii. While I still believe I will walk again, I don’t believe that I would be able to gain the strength, coordination, and balance necessary to surf. Well, that is one type of surfing. There is another type of surfing, one that I was quite familiar with that can be linked more to boogie-boarding than anything else. That wasn’t doable until Jessie Billauer, a former professional surfer who was paralyzed, created the Life Rolls On Foundation and the We Will Surf Again program. It was a program I was well aware of, but I thought I had to go to California. Boy was I wrong.
We Will Surf Again…Jersey-style…was one of the best organized, most professional, fun-filled, inspirational, and motivational events that I have participated in…in all of my travels around the world. What I appreciated more than anything is that I simply got a chance to focus on what I love, surfing. All the other details, which are extremely important, were of no concern to me and the other surfers because the volunteers had everything taken care of.
From the moment you arrive at the beach, you were treated like a V.I.P. There was always someone there to provide assistance, from getting in and out of your wheelchair to a beach chair, getting on and off a wetsuit, getting on and off the surfboard, and navigating the surfboard. There were at least a dozen hands on you if you fell off the surfboard. The peace of mind that was established throughout the event was remarkable because based on all the factors from the weather to the equipment to the varying types of disabilities, there was so much room for errors to occur…and not one did.
I will certainly be an annual attendee to this event in NJ…and I may even head out west to California because it was such a phenomenal experience and event.
It was extra special for me that my surf debut happened on Father’s Day.
“Dad, what was your favorite part of Father’s Day weekend?” my eight-year old son, Ray, asked me. “Besides hanging out with you, Nia, and Mom?” I responded. “Yeah,” he said. There were many incredible moments spent over the weekend, but one precise moment of exhilaration filled my entire body. “When I caught that first wave surfing,” I exclaimed.
Happy Father’s Day to me!
By: Scott Chesney
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