PPSC donates $1000 to Ride-A-Wave at last Max’s Kids Day at Cowells, Santa Cruz
PPSC member and Ride-A-Wave founder, Danny Cortazzo accepts $1000 donation from PPSC president, Greg Cochran
In 1990, while training for the U.S. national lifeguard team in Australia, Danny Cortazzo had a near-death experience when a car struck the bike he was riding. The accident kept the avid 27-year-old surfer out of the water for three months while he recovered. During that time, Cortazzo began thinking about people who never had the opportunity to experience the ocean and decided to create the Malibu Boardriders Club with fellow surfers once he had returned to the United States.
The club, which got started in 1992, offered children who were economically, physically or developmentally disabled a chance to enjoy the beach and surf. After moving to the Bay Area in 1998, Cortazzo, a Santa Clara firefighter and Santa Cruz lifeguard, formed a similar organization called Ride-A-Wave.
The nonprofit Ride-A-Wave runs on the philosophy “that everyone, no matter what physical limitations life might have given them, should have a chance to take pleasure from a day in the sun, enjoying all the wonder the ocean has to offer.”
“Danny is the waterman’s waterman,” said Jonathan Steinberg, a surfer and volunteer at Ride-A-Wave, who credits Cortazzo with a great understanding of the waves and a keen appreciation for safety. “Surfing is a selfish act because you’re trying to get the best wave for yourself even when you’re out with friends,” he said, “but Danny is out there trying to get the best waves for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy them.”
Ride-A-Wave schedules about nine beach trips a year based on the tides in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz organization is staffed by volunteers and funded by donations. On an average beach day, 60 volunteers provide assistance to 30 children, some of whom have never been to the beach. Interested participants can register online at Ride-A-Wave’s Web site.
The participants’ day begins at 9 a.m., when they watch a lifeguard safety demonstration, then stretch with a volunteer dressed as Spider-Man and tackle an obstacle course called the Rambo relay to warm up. Those who cannot walk through the course are carried by volunteers. They put on wetsuits and can participate in a wide range of water sports, including kayaking, tandem surfing, bodyboarding and building sand castles. Specially designed surfboards, wheelchairs and equipment allow even those with the most severe disabilities and paralysis to surf.
After enjoying a donated lunch, the kids are given high fives, T-shirts, Ride-A-Wave medals and a bag of prizes, from surfing stickers to toys.
“I can tell you all about it, and it won’t do it justice,” said Cortazzo, who started surfing at the age of 6. “When you see the kids’ faces and their parents’ faces, it just says it all,” he said.
For more information, call (831) 239-3672 or visit www.rideawave.org.