Health Check: Surfs up for people with disabilities
AmpSurf, also known as the association for amputee surfers, is scheduled to host a free surf clinic for individuals with disabilities at second beach in Middletown on Sept. 15.
“Surfing is scary. It’s scary for people that don’t have any disabilities but can you imagine how scary it is for people that really have some kind of disability,” said Justin Speegle, vice president of the AmpSurf board.
AmpSurf was formed by a former Marine who had his leg amputated following a car accident after service overseas in 2003. It was originally created by veteran amputees, but has been expanded over the years to include children and adults with any disability and features multiple locations across the country.
"We have certified trained adaptive surf instructors that know how to deal with all kinds of disabilities,” said Speegle.
"All us who surf know the sensation of catching a first wave,” said Dr. Michael Staebler, an orthopedist from University Orthopedics, which is a sponsor of the event who has also volunteered in the past. "Seeing these folks catch that wave and ride it into the beach and all the people there to catch them and cheer them, I kind of get goosebumps just thinking about it,."
Mike Wallace lost his leg three years ago due to complications from diabetes.
"I always said that I was going to start living and start doing things again and stop saying no to things," Wallace said.
When Speegle reached out to Wallace about participating last year, Wallace admits he was “hesitant at first.”
“This was something that was really out of my comfort zone," he said.
After getting in the ocean, Wallace felt something amazing had happened.
"The power of the ocean. It was a lot of fun, a great rush. It was exhilarating,” he said.
Paul Santilli, an outreach counselor for the VA in Warwick, volunteer and big fan, helps recruit veterans for AmpSurf.
"Disabilities can be a scary word or title. It does not need to be that way because with the amount of volunteers and support agencies in place, you will be successful and you will have a very good time,” he said.
AmpSurf is looking for volunteers and said they are not required to know how to surf, just encouraged to help out.
AmpSurf also still has available slots open for individuals who’d like to take part and learn how to surf.
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