Surf trip unites fathers and daughters during memorable weekend

For Scott Heron, the only thing better than catching a wave was watching his daughter catch her own.

“Surfing is absolutely exhilarating. That excitement and rush as you catch a wave. It lifts you up and you almost feel a sense of weightlessness as you speed down the wave,” he says. “The only feeling that matches it was being able to … see my daughter stand up and catch her first wave.”

Scott and his daughter were one of four family duos from Spinal Cord Injury B.C. on Power To Be’s father-daughter surf trip this year. The second annual trip, the weekend adventure in Tofino provided a chance for people to try something new and challenge their perceptions of what is possible.

“That is the thing that connects to the heart,” he says.

With support from surf instructors with Pacific Surf School, the group spent two days in the waves using a variety of adaptive equipment to transition from beach to board. With TrailRiders and all-terrain wheelchairs, as well as special seats for the boards, the fathers were able to get comfortable in a new environment.

“The biggest challenge was getting people to and from the water,” says Carolyn McDonald, Power To Be community development coordinator. “We would transfer from their wheelchairs into the TrailRiders, which we would walk right out into the water so it was waist deep. Then they could transfer right onto the board, using their arms and the added buoyancy of the water.”

With Power To Be staff waiting to catch the surfers in the shallows and Pacific Surf School instructors supporting them in the swell, the duos learned the nuances needed to conquer wave after wave.

“Seeing the growth was amazing,” says Gaby Emmett, Power To Be program facilitator. “Especially in some of the participants who came out last year, both the daughters gaining confidence in standing up and the dads catching waves on their own.”

After the first day of surf, the families shared a meal and talked about the experience. It was an opportunity to share stories of soreness and achievement, Heron says, noting tackling the waves was like doing 500 push ups in one day. The next morning they were all eager to do it again though.

“The ocean is so strong and it makes you respect it even more when you are catching a wave,” Carolyn says. “It was equally powerful for the daughters to see their dads as it was for the dads to see their daughters cruising around on the water.”

As the weeks pass after the trip, Scott and his daughter are still talking about it. It comes up in conversation and always with laughter. It doesn’t escape Scott that the weekend was also an opportunity to show his children that a disability doesn’t have to limit experiences like that.

“To be able to show them and share with them an activity that I can do with the support of Power To Be (is so meaningful),” Scott says. “How many other people can say that? Here I am, as a person with a disability and I have been out surfing with my daughters.”

If you are curious to learn more about this or other programs, or you would like more information about how to get involved with Power To Be please reach out to our Adaptive Recreation team.