EpicSurf event focuses on making surfing accessible to all abilities

Aquatic Development Group (ADG) the manufacturer of EpicSurf – a true deep-water, stationary surfing wave, is excited to announce their recent collaboration with a team of expert disability advocates to evaluate the wave’s inclusivity, accessibility, and potentially therapeutic benefits for individuals of all abilities.

EpicSurf teamed up with Justin Speegle, a Rhode Island surfer and retired Air Force Colonel who sits on the board of directors for non-profit, AMPSurf. AMPSurf’s mission is to share the joy and therapeutic effects of adaptive surfing with veterans, and adults and children living with a range of disabilities.

For this event, EpicSurf welcomed adaptive surfing instructors, volunteers, and advisory board members, along with US Veterans Affairs professionals, physical therapists, life coaches, an education specialist, and a team of enthusiastic participants with diverse abilities and an abundance of stoke.

The variable wave settings work to customize the standing wave surfing experience for all levels of surfers including those with special adaptive needs.

“As an adaptive surfing instructor, I found that EpicSurf creates a consistent medium that lends itself to surfing therapy. Not having to deal with tides, winds, and swells would make managing a surfing therapy session easier,” said Justin Speegle, Surfer, Veteran, AMPSurf Board Member, “The proximity of coaches and spectators to the riders makes verbal communication while riding possible. The set up lends itself well to group therapy and team building in the sense that everyone is cheering on the rider. The surfer bond is one of the things that makes ocean surfing therapy successful but even when a group goes surfing together, the ride experience is not easily shared. This set up completely changes that.”

The standing wave system is unique in that it offers the surfing experience to those adaptive surfers who don’t live near the coast.

“EpicSurf is great for individuals that do not live near water,” said Michele Ferrauilo, Albany, NY Veterans Affairs, Director of Adaptive Sports, “Especially, for individuals who fear the ocean, giving them an opportunity to surf in a controlled setting with support. There is potential to adapt to individuals with disabilities, both physical and mental health diagnosis.”

The learner bar is a big help when learning to surf on a rapid wave.

The event was also joined by Christiaan “Otter” Bailey, a highly decorated adaptive surfing champion, Captain of the USA Surfing Team, multi-seat board member including USA Surfing and International Surfing Association Para-Surfing, and to date, the only adaptive surfer to charge Mavericks and Pipeline.

This experienced collective of ocean surfers, many retired veterans with invisible wounds, assessed the entire EpicSurf experience through the lens of adaptive surfers, testing every possible wave-riding scenario. The experts experimented with a variety of surfboards, body boards, and adaptive boards. They role-played wipeouts, analyzed surfaces, construction materials, water conditions and velocity, pool entrances and exits to examine every possible adaptive situation.

“I see a lot of potential for this to be used not only as a recreational tool,” said Randi Woodrow, Physical Therapist, AMPSurf Board Member, “but also as an adjunct to a variety of rehabilitation therapies – and a great day riding the wave for almost anyone!”

The collaboration with a team of expert disability advocates evaluated the wave’s inclusivity, accessibility, and potentially therapeutic benefits for individuals of all abilities.

Once the accessibility trials were complete, participants from the VA and Lifesong joined the session. Lifesong is an Albany-based, day habilitation program that provides ongoing support to adults with special needs for continued support and success in the community. A beginner surfer commented, “I have cerebral palsy, and I never thought I could do something like this,” she continued “I am so proud of myself and I can’t wait to surf again!”

“The ladies cannot stop talking about it! (Actually, we’re all talking about it quite a bit!) It’s such a fun and powerful opportunity,” said Scott W. Hamilton, Lifesong Inc., Director of Day Services, “The people we support would benefit from opportunities like this. Not only would it be a blast, but for them to be able to say, ‘I’ve tried surfing!” pushes the envelope of what they thought was possible. The growing opportunities are endless.”

This collaborative event was supported by Hyperflex Wetsuits along with local, New York Veteran- owned businesses, New Scotland Distillery and Crazy Mike’s Beef Jerky.