I woke up early Saturday morning to go down to the beach and help out with an AmpSurf event going on in Pismo. AmpSurf is an organization based here that helps disabled folks, largely veterans, build up their confidence and have fun through the sport of surfing. They’ve been doing clinics for quite a few years now, and this was the 6th year in a row for their “Operation Restoration” event.
We got the morning started by getting all the volunteers checked in before the participants showed up. We had waivers to sign and color coded rash guards to pick up. In water helpers (me) were white and instructors were red. When the surfers showed up we massed together on the sidewalk above the beach at the base of the pier and had a small opening ceremony type deal. An Army color guard presented the colors, the mayor of Pismo Beach and a County Supervisor gave short speeches, and then our local congresswoman got up there and talked a bit as well. Some national anthem singing and “America the Beautiful” action was mixed in courtesy of a local participant who is blind and surfed for the first time in her life that day. Once that was all done we started to filter down to the beach.
I was teamed up with two instructors that would be handling different surfers in separate heats. My first instructor was a younger guy who actually learned to surf through AmpSurf a couple years ago. I didn’t even realize he was disabled in any way until I saw him in a wet suit that exposed a prosthetic foot and lower leg.
Both of the surfers I got to work with looked like they were having a great time and were doing really well on the waves… better than I can surf anyways :) I mainly just had to cheer and wrangle loose boards post wipeouts. We rotated through 20 minute heats and on the last one I didn’t have a participant in the water because his shoulder was done for the day. I spent that last heat roving the shoreline and watching other participants get up and surf. It’s really impressive to watch someone surf on just one leg or without the ability to see. There was one guy who was particularly impressive that couldn’t stand up at all and surfed sitting down on the board. He’d grab a rail and lean into the waves and cut all the way across the beach! I caught his board on the last wave of the day and helped hold it steady while his assigned helpers transferred him to an off road wheel chair with these big huge inflatable wheels to help it move over the sand. He may not be able to walk but he had the best moves out there in the water!
This was the first time I’ve been able to make it to an AmpSurf event and I’m really glad I did. It was awesome to be able to share the ocean with people in a way that made it fun and safe and accessible for them. Also as a former service member myself, it was fun to mix with the other veterans that were both participating and volunteering. I’ll definitely be back out for another event in the future and I’d recommend checking them out and volunteering if you’re local to Pismo!