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Making A Day At The Beach Accessible


By Melani Chun, AccessSurf Leadership Committee

A day at the beach should be something everyone can enjoy. It’s an activity we take for granted.

But for those with physical and/or cognitive challenges, ocean access is beyond their grasp. To cross over sand to the water’s edge, handle a surfboard or just float in the water, these are insurmountable hurdles.

This troubled recreation therapist Mark Marble. One of his clients said, “I’m too embarrassed to ask my family to carry me over the sand. I don’t want to bother them.” No one wants to be stuck on the sidelines. AccesSurf Hawaii (ASH) was founded in 2006 by Marble and adaptive athlete Richard Julian to empower persons with disabilities and enrich their lives.


Navy veteran Javier Rodriguez lost a leg to injuries suffered in an accident. His ASH activities have been life-changing.

“So much aloha! Ocean therapy helps my mind and soul to heal. Surfing makes me confident to meet new challenges without fear,” he said.

Run almost entirely by volunteers, ASH offers free monthly programs.

Day at the Beach at White Plains is for anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge, while the Wounded Warrior event at White Plains and Waikiki is intended for military personnel. Our newest program is adaptive swimming and surf clinics.

What began with five participants and 12 volunteers has grown to average 100 participants and more than 130 volunteers at our Day at the Beach and Wounded Warrior events. ASH is the only accredited Paralympic sports club in Hawaii, and AccesSurf Okinawa held its first event last fall. Duke’s OceanFest offers adaptive surfing competitions, and International Surfing Association’s inaugural Adaptive World Championship this September is modeled after our event at Duke’s.

ASH’s greatest challenge is financial sustainability. Donations support maintenance and upgrade of adaptive equipment and safety gear. To donate or volunteer, go to accessurf.org. If interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact executive director Cara Short at 236- 4200 or cara@accessurf.org.

Our annual fundraiser is June 13 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Hawaiian South Shore, 320 Ward Ave. There will be food trucks, a silent auction, and music by Mike Love and others. Tickets cost $10 tickets at the door.