JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — More than 72 people living with physical or visual disabilities got the chance to spend a day on the water, helped by around 250 volunteers from around the First Coast.
This marked the 13th year that the Brooks Rehabilitation’s Adaptive Sports & Recreation Program hosted the surfing event in Jacksonville Beach. The national organization Life Rolls On partnered with Brooks for the event.
"We [volunteers] create a channel for each disabled surfer so that when they fall off the board, someone has the responsibility to grab them and get their head above water and safely get them back on the board for another ride," said Alice Krauss, the Manager of Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation.
The surf session lasted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, with volunteers and surfers packing the beach and dividing into teams for 30-minute rounds.
“Adaptive Surfing is always one of our most popular events," Krauss said. "For these participants who live with paralysis and other disabling conditions, this is an opportunity to forget their limitations and experience the thrill and freedom of the ocean."
For more than two years, First Coast News has been following the recovery of Drew Kohn, who ended up in a coma for over eight months after a motorcycle crash.
Earlier in July, Kohn went indoor skydiving. Now riding waves, his mother Yolanda Osborne-Kohn said Drew continues to persist and improve.
"He's experiencing something that he didn't think he would have the opportunity to do," Osborne-Kohn said. "And that is just a wonderful event. I just celebrate Brooks and I celebrate Life Rolls On for us being able to have this opportunity. It is so amazing and, I mean, you can see all the teams, all these people."
Drew's was one of many inspirational stories at Jacksonville Beach. Another was that of Luther Delp, who also survived a motorcycle crash.
"A girl hit me," he said. "I died three times, I was stopped at a red light. I died at the scene and I died two more times at Shands."
An avid waterman, Delp has been attending the Brooks surfing events for seven years. Delp also rides jet skis.
"The water makes you forget all your troubles if you have any," Delp said. "This puts you in another place in your mind, and it's just great. I can hardly describe it."
Brooks also hosted the indoor skydiving event that Kohn attended in July. You can read about his experience here.
While 72 surfers were able to attend, there were still dozens on a waitlist. Krauss said Brooks is always looking for more help to put these events on, especially volunteers.
"You'll see a huge community out here," she said. "Lots of laughter, lots of love. As people push beyond their limits and push beyond their fears and get out in the water and put their trust in a bunch of strangers, and we all come together."
If you want to learn more about volunteering with Brooks, you can visit their website here.