VIA – SC SENTINEL
Wally Whittier, left, of the Best Day Foundation, checks out the new custom-made, adaptive surfboard his foundation purchased from noted surfboard shaper Bob Pearson, right. Susan Walton, middle, has an autistic son who has benefited from the Ride-A-Wave program. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)
By Terri Morgan
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Posted: 08/28/2014 03:54:23 PM PDT
SANTA CRUZ >> Surfboard shaper Bob Pearson was stoked to talk about the adaptive surfboard he crafted for a Watsonville-based nonprofit that will allow youngsters with physical and mental challenges experience the joy of riding a wave.
His grin grew even larger when he spoke about the rewards of putting such surfboards to use.
“Kids with special needs want to go surfing, because they see it, hear about it, and read about it,” said Pearson. “You get experts to take them in the water and it puts a smile on their faces. It gives them confidence, raises their self esteem and gives them a reason to live.”
That’s exactly what representatives of the Best Day Foundation plan to do with the gleaming new 15-foot surfboard, which Pearson handed over to the foundation Thursday afternoon at Cowell Beach. The state-of-the-art surfboard is fitted with a light weight carbon fiber chair to allow participants to sit on the board while it is being maneuvered on a wave by a volunteer surfer.
The white, durable, stable, lightweight surfboard with blue rails and accents is headed for the East Coast, explained Wally Whittier, who is the president of the Best Day Foundation. Meanwhile, Pearson is building two more adaptive surfboards for the organization that will be put to use in the water off Santa Cruz.
The Best Day Foundation was recently awarded at $3,867 Quality of Life Grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to pay for one of the surfboards. The grant was one of 73 awarded during the first cycle of 2014.
“We’re very grateful to the foundation for its grant support,” said Whittier. “It’s very exciting.”
The Best Day Foundation, founded in 2008, is raising funds to pay for the second one for use locally.
The Best Day Foundation was started by Max Montgomery and Brooks Lambert, two longtime volunteers from the Ride-A-Wave program, which also takes physically and mentally challenged youngsters surfing. The two organizations work cooperatively together.
“The experience for volunteers to participate is so magical those guys wanted to expand it,” said Susan Walton, a member of the Best Day board of directors. “Since Ride-A-Wave is here (in Santa Cruz) the idea was to take the sport to other locales.”
The Best Day Foundation has chapters in Ventura, Orange County and Santa Barbara, as well as in New Jersey. The foundation’s goal is to help children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness, cancer, spinal cord injuries and other challenges safely experience fun adventures, including surfing, body-boarding and kayaking. Since its inception, Best Day has held 91 events at 13 venues and served more than 3,000 youngsters. Nearly 9,000 volunteers collectively contributed 53,000 volunteer hours to help improve the quality of life for participants.
Walton has seen first hand how such programs have helped youngsters thrive. Her 14-year-old son Drew, who has autism, and has been surfing with Ride-A-Wave volunteers since he was age 6.
“It’s really opened a lot of doors for my son and boosted his confidence,” Walton said, adding Drew become eager to try other outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, after going surfing.
“The ocean is one of the most amazing sensory environments that exist,” Walton said. “And Ride-A-Wave really makes it possible” for children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience it.
The experience is also tremendous for the volunteers who take kids surfing.
“Some of the best sessions I’ve had have been on two-foot (high waves at) Cowell’s with some of these kids,” said Pearson. “I took a dozen people out (one day) and they all had so much fun. I was so happy and fired up because they were so stoked.”
For information on the Best Day Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.bestdayfoundation.org.
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