This is Carolina: Adaptive Surf Project brings wheels to water

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 11:33 PM EDT
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LITTLE RIVER, S.C. (WMBF) - The coronavirus pandemic is causing many disruptions, but it’s also causing many good causes to adapt.

The Adaptive Surf Project is one of those organizations. Virus risks mean no big surfing events, no basketball and no bike riding for the people who participate in adaptive sports.

Adaptive Surf is a local organization helping people with various disabilities to be active in their community. It’s usually comprised of large surfing events, but basketball and biking have been added as the organization grew.

The pandemic halted all social events, practices and outings, so Adaptive Surf Project director Luke Sharp and volunteer Vann Horn both decided to do something different, especially after a contraption was shipped to them from Hawaii.

The device turned out to be a paddleboard with extra gadgets to make it safe and sturdy for those in wheelchairs.

“I didn’t think it was possible. We tried it with kayaking before, but never paddle boarding. So this was a whole new experience. And the outriders on the paddleboard make it really stable for somebody in a wheelchair,” Horn said. “All our events have been canceled this year, so we thought this was a great way to get people out on the water, one-on-one, and do it safely.”

Horn said instead of two nights a week, the duo now hosts paddleboarding sessions three nights a week due to popular demand.

Horn and Sharp took their friend, Jose Solorio, out for an evening of paddleboarding on Tuesday. It was Solorio’s second time on the water.

“For many years I did nothing,” he said. “Like, nobody was out there to help you do things. And I just try to do things on my own. Being in the chair you know, it’s hard.”

Solorio added he’s been involved with the Adaptive Surf Project for five years, and said he didn’t learn to swim until after a 2003 work accident that left him with a complete spinal cord injury.

Now, he loves the water.

“Now when I see people in wheelchairs, I’m like ‘Hey, listen have you heard from the people of Coastal Adaptive?' They’re like no. I’m like, ‘Oh they’ll take you surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, bike riding, just to get out of the house,” he said. “Because, again, I thought there was nothing for me to do, being in a wheelchair. It’s just hard even to get out, just to open the door and go outside. I used to feel embarrassed, I used to feel like I didn’t belong. But, just getting out here and having fun and enjoying myself.”

The trio wore masks while Jose strapped down and got off the paddleboard. Other than that, they’re practicing safe social distancing.

“I enjoy it. I enjoy it. Seeing the faces, the smiles. I enjoy the water and I enjoy helping out. And I think I get more out of it than the participants do,” Horn said with a laugh.

As the three men put the paddles up for the day, Solorio left with some inspiring words.

“Life is short,” he said. “Opportunities are there, if you get one take it.”

If you’re interested in the Adaptive Surf Project or would like to volunteer/contact, click here for more information.

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