To float on foam waiting for a wave just right in size and speed makes for a game of chance that’s tranquil yet exhilarating. For coastal dwellers, surfing is a sport that is especially accessible. And thanks to a unique initiative, this is also true for those who contend with disabilities.
During a chance meeting of the minds over dinner circa 2014, an ideal trifecta of friends made a decision. Lynne Funcheon, Molly Ferraro, and Pete Skoglund were a veritable dream team. Lynne had the resources and connections needed as a director at the Arc of St. Johns. Molly is on her staff and could assist with implementation. Pete is a pro-surfer. They joined forces and launched SurfQuest – a day at the beach to enjoy the ocean’s healing powers. So beneath the Arc’s umbrella, SurfQuest was ready to roll.
It was to be an uncomplicated monthly event free of red tape. It’s a flexible ‘come one come all’ experience that stems from a place of practical wisdom. The founders chose not to impose time slots to further enhance the experience. It has been a wonderful success for the last five years. “You can’t run into bad people when money is out of the equation,” comments Lynne with a smile.
As for safety, there is an attire arrangement in place. Well known, experienced coaches wear purple or green rash guards, while their students wear orange. Coaches have backgrounds as diverse as ocean rescue, law enforcement, and firefighting.
Part of SurfQuest’s mission is to help parents see their children in a new light. For kids who are amputees or suffering from cerebral palsy, surfing may seem out of the question, but as Lynne says, “The ocean levels the playing field.” When nature takes over and volunteers on the sidelines cheer for surfers who are sometimes seen primarily through the lens of their disability, tears stream down their parents’ faces. The ocean is also equalizing in the case of deaf surfers. Hearing doesn’t play an integral role in the sport. “The difference between a good idea and a success,” says Lynne, “is somebody who’s willing to take it from the idea and put the work in.”
We’re grateful that Lynne and her colleagues keep putting in the work.
Learn more about SurfQuest by visiting www.arcsj.org/services/surfquest. Photography by Kate Gardiner.
This story is shared in partnership with Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine.