September 28, 2022
(LONG BEACH ISLAND, N.J.) — A local nonprofit organization hosted its annual adaptive surfing event in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, earlier this month to create an opportunity to teach individuals with disabilities how to paddle out and catch some waves.
“Surfing is a selfish pursuit. Today is a chance to put that selfishness aside, have fun, and give back to my community. I look forward to this event every year,” said Pete Machotka, a local surfer.
For five years, Waves of Strength has hosted an event that utilizes adaptive surfing methods that fit the needs and limitations of each surfer. Some methods of adaptive surfing include the use of a wave-ski, a surfboard with back-mounted support that allows a surfer to sit upright and steer with a kayak-like paddle.
“There’s a lot of preparation and tinkering in adaptive surfing. It differs depending on a person’s circumstances; everything is tailored to your needs with different modifications,” said Dylan Hronec.
Hronec, an athlete and competitive surfer born with cerebral palsy, is an outspoken advocate for adaptive sports and inclusivity. Nearly a decade ago, Hronec fell in love with the ocean’s healing powers. He continues to work with a team of professional surfers who assist him with accessing beaches and teach him lifesaving techniques.
“I have a crew of eight to ten guys who I am comfortable with that take me out in certain conditions. People in my crew know their roles,” Hronec stated about the efforts of his team. “When I wipe out, there’s a great deal of trust in my crew.”
While Waves of Strength focuses on providing an unforgettable surfing experience for individuals with disabilities, inclusivity is its’ greatest takeaway. There is a great deal of work behind the scenes to fundraise, create and provide equipment for the event.
“People are naïve to the resources needed and the sense of community it brings,” Hronec said. “Most people cannot grasp what it takes to get a person with a disability in the water until you see it yourself,” he stated.
The Waves of Strength are part of a growing number of organizations throughout the country that are attempting to normalize adaptive surfing. Caleb Reed, a co-founder of the Adaptive Surf Project in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, aims to do just that through adaptive surfboard building, camps, clinics, and weekly surfing meetups.
Caleb stated, “We build friendships and communities; it is really changing lives. And it is organic. This is an inclusive community, and we are changing people’s expectations of what can be normal. This is not charity; it is solidarity.”