saturday, june 18 marks the day i went in the ocean for the first time since my "injury." for the first time in nearly 11 years, i was able to feel the rough ocean waves crash against my face and body, the taste of the salty water down my throat and up my nose, the wet sand sticking to and hiding in every crevice of my body with no hope of brushing off for an unnatural amount of time. it was easily one of the most amazing experiences i've had in my lifetime. it's amazing how something that used to be so familiar to me felt so unique and brand new. i can thank life rolls on for that, and the wonderful they will surf again event that i was so proud and lucky to be able to have participated in. to fill you in on what TWSA is, click here. i didn't know what to expect, but as i sat and blankly watched other disabled surfers riding waves and flipping their boards and falling helplessly into the water, panic set (in even more than it already had). i had trouble listening to anything anyone said or focusing on anything but my squirming tummy. i was basically blacked out up until the point that i got hit in the face with the first wave.
the surfboard was altered with two handlebars attached, and i cannot stress enough how tight i was grasping onto them. the phenomenal volunteers did their best to raise me over each oncoming wave, but the big ones felt like i was getting hit by a truck every time. the ocean literally beat me to death, but i never let go once. i was holding on for dear life and every inch of my upper body was unbelievable sore the following few days. when all was said and done and i was carried (still on my board) back onto the beach, i finally let go of the handles where i felt and saw my hands shaking.
there were volunteers everywhere, and i mean everywhere. (you can see above how many there were in the deeper water. it looks like i'm in the middle of a swarm of sharks ready to attack.) i was surprised at how safe i actually felt despite having no real control over my body in the water. basically how it worked, there was a group of volunteers who carried me out over the shallow water, until passing me off to the deeper water volunteers who swam me out to sea over each oncoming wave and set me up for a wave to ride all the way back down to the beach, where that same original group caught me (or saved me if i fell off the board) and repeated the same process again. while i was holding on with every ounce of strength i had, my arms were killing me but i refused to take a break because i didn't want to waste a single moment since time was limited. but all the while i was impressed and amazed at my team for their hard work and dedication. they must have been exhausted from pushing bodies out into the ocean over and over again, but all with a smile on their faces. they were amazing and i'm incredibly grateful for every single one of them. obviously, i wouldn't have had been able to experience this if not for them.
just the fact that i was in the ocean was the biggest thrill for me since it has been so long. every memory i have of being in the ocean is from when i was a kid. the last time i was phsyically able to was when i was just a kid, and i think that's what made it so special for me. although riding a wave all the way down to the shore was a blast, and i am fully addicted. i thought i'd be terrified of falling off the board, but even that was actually really fun.
video! i know, it's kind of awkward to watch. also, you can stop watching after i flip over, i think my sister just wanted to record herself running on the beach?
i have a ridiculous amount of photos (the more the better, i say) but here are just a few more of how things went down, my team, and of course surfing:
i'm horribly embarrassed by this, but it's too funny not to post. i'm not sure why i look like i'm about to burst in tears.
my sister and mike being wonderful volunteers
my amazing team blue!
my fantastic surfing instructor (instructor? i forget what his "title" was.) he is the great one that looks like he's pouncing on me or burrowing into my butt in all the pictures. i apologize for looking like a weird wet beaver in this picture.
the man who made it happen! i received an email from mike (lime green) informing me about the event. i wouldn't have been there if not for him. infinite thanks to you, mike!
all surfers, volunteers, participants.
i hate to get all sentimental and actually express my feelings, so i won't. i just want to genuinely thank everyone at life rolls on, every single volunteer on my team (and every other team), moon doggie surfer, my supportive family, everyone who made the day possible. the entire event was beautifully planned, and there was such an uplifting, positive vibe beaming from everyone participating, volunteering, and watching. i couldn't have asked for a better experience and i'm forever grateful to have had the opportunity to get back in the ocean.
i plan to head to virginia beach in august for round 2!