By Mackenzie Myatt
The Life Rolls On event at Martinique Beach on August 17 empowers people with mobility disabilities to experience freedom and mobility by riding a wave with the assistance of adaptive equipment and volunteers. SurfAble and Surf Nova Scotia have partnered to make the event possible.
This year’s event attracted a much larger group of participants, a clear indication of the excitement that the event has generated. In the first year at Martinique, there were 14 participants; this summer, 70 people registered. The number of volunteers has also grown rapidly. This year, 130 volunteers signed up to help, many of them from the surfing or the medical community.
Kate Sunabacka was one of this year’s returning volunteers, and she said this year was even better than last year. Volunteers in the water create a path to the beach for participants on surfboards, guiding them to the beach on the waves. Each participant gets about 30 minutes in the water, depending on what they are comfortable with. Participants can choose whether they want to try small, medium or large waves. “What’s really cool is some people from last year even set goals about how they wanted to ride the waves and hit a different level of surf than before.”
She said the event is all about the participants, but their families also love the event. “You get to know everyone’s name and there’s a lot of cheering going on in the water- but it’s also special to look back at the sand and see how excited the families are.” Something that really stood out to her was that some of the families come from away and make a few days vacation from the event. “That’s really telling how powerful it is.”
One of the things Life Rolls On does to make the beach more accessible is to put down plywood on the sand down to the water. One of the participants cheering from the sand said she wished they could have permanent access to the beach: “The plywood makes a huge difference for the wheelchairs.”
A spokesperson for Life Rolls On told the Cooperator, “The event allows the volunteers to remove barriers and help the participants access a new sport feeling safe and supported.” She said those who have a disability or have mobility issues are not heroes for doing normal things, that it is important to consider them, “a normal person in a problematic environment.” She hopes the event will show the public that Ableism –discrimination and social prejudice against people who are not able-bodied—is unfounded.
Andrew Jantzen was a first-time participant who’d never surfed before. He says: “I heard about Life Rolls On last summer from friends and really wanted to go but I just missed it.”
He made sure to attend this year and was rewarded with an emotional experience: “I had tears in my eyes on the water, it’s just incredible.” He said he’ll definitely come back. A volunteer next to Jantzen grinned and said, “Once you come once, you’re usually hooked.”
For more information, go to the Facebook page, Life Rolls On – Martinique Beach, NS.
Photo credit: Tyler Colbourne