Ride-A-Wave Saturday, May 12, 2012 Cowell’s Beach Santa Cruz
Under partly cloudy skies, 35 children and young adults with special needs gathered at Cowell’s Beach for a day with the Ride-A-Wave founder Danny Cortazzo and his spirited staff of volunteers to participate in surfing, kayaking, boogie boarding and have a fun day on the beach.
This year my son Brennan had the opportunity to be a participant. We met the “check-in staff” at the Cowell’s Beach parking lot at 8:30AM, took care of paperwork and were assigned his “beach buddy” Lisa Ryner (PPSC member). A “beach buddy” is a volunteer who stays with the participant the whole time making sure his or her special needs are met, that they have an opportunity to participate in all the water activities if they want to, give them some encouragement if they need it, and just have fun on the beach. It was a blessing that Lisa was Brennan’s “beach buddy’ that day because both Lisa and Brennan have known each other for several years. Lisa took Brennan while my wife Diane and I stood back and took lots of pictures.
The first activity for Brennan (after suiting-up in wetsuit, booties, life jacket, helmet and sunscreen) was SURFING! He was so excited about it that Lisa made sure to get him signed-up first thing. Now, I have taken him out on his longboard many times into the white water were he would lay prone on the board all the way to the beach, but this day was special — the experienced volunteer who took our son out on a tandem board caught a real wave and had Brennan standing up riding the wave. Brennan was so stoked!
After surfing Lisa took him to the kayak station where other experienced volunteers took him out for a paddle. After a paddle out and around a buoy (including a visit from a sea lion) Lisa walked him to the “boogie board” area where he was helped by trained volunteers to catch waves and have a blast riding the shorebreak to the sand.
After all the water activities were finished lunch was provided (burritos!), followed by the grand finale, the Awards Ceremony. Each participant was called up to receive a medal signifying them as a Ride-A-Wave Participant and a gift bag stuffed with a t-shirt and other assorted goodies. After their picture was taken they got high-fives from everyone as they left. It was a very memorable day for Brennan and the other participants. The staff and volunteers provided plenty of Aloha Spirit to everyone and brought warmth and kindness to individuals who have never had such an opportunity before.
The Ride-A-Wave Foundation has many sponsors who donate time, money, equipment and food for the over 2500 participants who have been through the program since Danny Cortazzo founded this program in 1998. The Pedro Point Surf Club donates proceeds from the “Big Chill-Out Surf Contest” to help see that this program continues serving future participants. This year, in addition to club members volunteering their time as “beach buddies”, PPSC donated $500 and presented a check to Danny during the morning briefing. He was extremely grateful for the club’s donation and thanked PPSC over and over again that morning.
The PPSC members who took time to share their day as “beach buddies” were; Lisa Ryner, Joe Ujcic, Tim and Michelle Simpson and Nick Bamont. I would like to give a special thanks to Greg and Karen Cochran who provided us direction and led us to this wonderful opportunity for our son.
Dave Duncan (edits by Lisa Ryner)