Firsthand: The Surfing Samurai, adaptive sessions and wave pools

Eleven years ago Dylan Hronec rode his first wave and “In that moment I felt like I was no longer in my body anymore; I was flying and totally free.” Dylan was born with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder that affects fine motor skills. 

We received some clips of Dylan at SkudinSurf American Dream and wanted to chat with him. WavePoolMag then discovered that Dylan had also sessioned at Kelly’s Surf Ranch. In the process, he helped start Surf4All which aims to share surfing with wave pools playing a key role in the progression of adaptive surfing. The interview below brings us up to speed with Dylan’s ongoing adventures.

Dylan Hronec surfs frequently with SkudinSurf, the group running the PerfectSwell wave tank at American Dream

What’s your favorite surf spot?

My favorite surf spot is wherever my friends are. I’m always looking for the perfect barrel though. 

How long have you been surfing?

I’ve been surfing for 11 years now and can honestly say from my first session it changed my life. Now I’m able to be a part of getting other people to experience the same things I’ve felt in my first session as part of the team at Surf for All it’s really cool.

Where did the name The Surfing Samurai come from?

My hair is pulled back in a topknot mimicking that of a samurai warrior and I have embraced surfing heavy conditions since the beginning of my journey surfing. There’s a belief that I am fearless and ready for anything regardless of what society may believe my limitations are because of my disability.

There are many types of Cerebral Palsy, which kind is yours and what does that mean for your mobility?

I have Spastic Cerebral Palsy it affects all 4 of my limbs, and range of motion and I use a manual wheelchair.

What are some of the things you need to consider when you go for a surf that are unique to your surfing experience? – beach wheelchair, etc.

My surf sessions very much resemble a big wave mission. I have my wetsuits outfitted with zippers on the arms and legs to get make it easier to take on and off. My beach wheelchair is hooked to the back of an ATV to make it easy access to get down to the water. My friends who help out we call the Samurai Safety team, and they assist with paddling me out pushing me into waves or riding tandem, and being alert on safely in case of a wipeout. In heavy conditions, we had been using the wavejet propulsion system but it has been difficult to rely on. I’m hopeful we’ll find new technology that can assist on those days we all dream of.

You’ve worked with SkudinSurf American Dream, tell us about that please.

Cliff and Will Skudin are close friends of mine who push me to get as much time in the water as possible. My spasms make cold water surfing basically impossible. Being from New York there are only short windows of consistent surf and warmer water temperatures. Once the facility opened at American Dream they made it a priority for me to get there as much as possible so I could surf more often and progress my skills in a controlled environment.

Do you think wave pools will open up surfing to more people – how and why?

I think Wavepools will be huge for the profession of adaptive surfing specifically to get people comfortable in the water and without being at the mercy of Mother Nature on a wipeout. In regards to myself, wavepools have allowed me to level the amount of water time I miss out on not living in California or Hawaii like the athletes I’ve competed against in contests. I’m able to try things in the pool before testing them in the unpredictable ocean.

Anything else you want to mention that we missed?

I’ve also surfed Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, and it’s everything you can dream of. I’m hoping I can check out all the different pools around the world. I wanna encourage everyone to check out Surf4All and donate whatever you can.