Marine Biologist/Surfer/AccesSurf Volunteer
Changing lives

“We all succumb to injury at some point in our lives, but what if you had no hope of ever recovering?”

The Inertia

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you are some type of water fanatic, frozen or not. Deep down, all of us outdoor enthusiasts have the same deep-seated fear. It’s not sharks, or avalanches, or bears. It is the fear that you might lose your ability to participate in the activity you love the most. We all succumb to injury at some point in our lives, but what if you had no hope of ever recovering?

One of my most profound memories with AccesSurf occurred at Dukes Ocean Fest Waikiki.  I was assisting a brand new surfer named Damon Boiser. After an accident when he was 27 that rendered him a C6 quadriplegic, Damon is paralyzed from the chest down and has limited dexterity. It was our first time ever surfing together and it was his second time surfing in his life. In-between sets, Damon explained that when he was younger he loved playing the guitar, and before his accident he was on deck to be Limp Bizkit’s next guitarist. He planned to become a rock star.  I was pretty new to AccesSurf at the time, and just looked at him with sad eyes and a heavy heart and said, “I’m so sorry.”  He looked up at me, smiled, and determinedly said, “There are other ways to be a rock star, you know.”  And that clinched it! I was hooked for life – the strength, determination, and mind-bogglingly positive attitude that you encounter at AccesSurf; it exists within every person at these events and it is beyond addicting. As one of my friends who is now in a chair pointed out, “people become their best and most giving selves around me. Being a paraplegic has really changed my views on humanity.”

In 2013 at a “Day at the Beach” event, I took a beautiful seven-year-old girl who had severe autism out surfing for her first time. When her family came to the beach their daughter was screaming… I watched them put on her gear, feed her, walk her over to the surf tent. All the while, she was still screaming. Chris, our lead surf instructor, chatted with the family for a bit and they decided it was a go. I gave Chris my most determined “are you serious?” eyes, but he assured me it was fine. With the help of three water safety volunteers we got her, still screaming, on a board and in place. She and I were off.  As we paddled out through the waves, water splashing in her face, she kept screaming. As we waited for a wave, several water safety volunteers paddled over and tried to reassure her as I had. Eventually, we decided to just go for it. Our wave came, we lined up, took the drop and… silence. Complete silence. I talked to her, asked her to give me her hand; we stood together and had our first of several fantastic rides. She was silent for the rest of our 20 minutes in the waves, big smiles of course, but not one peep.  Just humbling, magical, silence. The ocean does that.  This beautiful girl has since left our island, but she came back a few times before her family moved. The next time she came to our “Day at the Beach” she didn’t make a fuss while signing up, changing, or getting on the board. The water may dry, the board rash will heal and fade; but the memories, the memories remain.

I never really “got it” before I started volunteering for AccesSurf: the giving of yourself, your time, sharing your skills with others. I used to volunteer because I had to; now these “volunteer days” have become my favorite days of the month. AccesSurf has changed me in so many ways. I am surrounded by the best group of people that I have ever encountered. We are one big family here at AccesSurf. I see lives changed on a daily basis. You can see that people leave the events with a renewed vigor and zest for life and they come back month after month.


I could write about my experiences and the people that have inspired me for days. The only way for you to really experience the “magic” that ensues when you watch someone enter the water for the first time in eighteen years is to come to one of AccesSurf’s free monthly events.  AccesSurf changes lives – it definitely changed mine. It’s not the way you see things that matters, it’s how you look at them. Most of us understand this statement, but sometimes you need a little help to actually feel it. AccesSurf does that.

AccesSurf is a nonprofit organization that offers free monthly programs for anyone with a physical or cognitive disability.  The entire operation is run by one paid full-time director and one part-time staff member. The rest are volunteers. We also host swim clinics, Wounded Warrior events, surf clinics, surf competitions and we are a Paralympic Sports Club.

If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate to this holiday season, we are in need of funding. The organization also needs volunteers in particular skilled watermen and women. What we do can be challenging at times, but we do it in the safest way possible and the reward is certainly worth the risk. Mahalo Nui Loa for your support.

To volunteer at AccesSurf, click here, and to donate to AccesSurf, click here.

A Day with AccesSurf from Cara Troy on Vimeo.


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