Spinal Cord Injury BC family shifts perspective on the waves

When I told people that my family and I were going to Tofino to go surfing, I mostly received one of three reactions: “You mean, all of you?”, “How in the world will you do that?” and “Wow, that is going to be so much fun!”

My own personal reaction was a combination of all three. With the initial e-mail, I was full of excitement. However, as soon as we committed to the trip, I quickly shifted gears to doubt and panic. How was I going to do this – they knew I was paralyzed right?

Having sustained a spinal cord injury a little more than two years ago, I have become accustomed to trying new things because, well, everything seems new. Surfing though, surfing was way out of my comfort zone. The ocean in general was pretty far out there for me too. But if I was going to go back into the ocean, I figured it made sense to do so faced with four-foot swells and a strong undertow. That wasn’t bound to spike my anxiety.

Lo and behold, it did spike my anxiety and I really did wonder how I was going to accomplish this. I wondered how my children would do this. I soon discovered it would be with a lot of help from some amazing people.

I had never heard of Power To Be before this trip. When Spinal Cord Injury BC connected me with them, I really didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, it is an organization full of people who wanted to help us have a memorable and exciting family getaway. They did everything they could to make us and the three other families on the trip as comfortable as possible. They were encouraging but not pushy and were very clear that we were to participate within our own level of comfort. Even still, I wasn’t sure I could go through with it.

If it weren’t for trying to show my children that you should try everything once, I’m not sure I would have left the hotel room. Sometimes being a parent really comes back to bite you. As we ventured down to the beach and saw the surf (the last group to arrive because, mom life) I’m fairly certain the colour drained from my face. My husband knows me well enough and knew that anything he said at that point would be held against him so he busied himself with the children. And we waited.

The surf instructors from Pacific Surf Co went over the game plan. Their confidence and knowledge of the ocean began to put me at ease almost instantly. Our family was given two instructors and we went off towards the water. As I headed out on the surfboard I felt like I was in capable hands. By the time I had ridden a wave back in, I felt capable. The fear and anxiety that had built up inside of me for days was gone within minutes. My children were all smiles and my hair was salty for the first time in more than two years. Most importantly, I was in the ocean with my family and prior to that moment I really didn’t think we would ever experience something like that together again.

I ended up riding more waves than I could count. I fell a few times but never felt scared – just held on for dear life to a man that wasn’t my husband (for the record, it was the instructor). Our family had more fun – and was more exhausted – than I could have imagined. It was a trip we will never forget thanks in large part to the wonderful staff at Power To Be and Pacific Surf Co. Even peeling wetsuits off of three cold children and two adults (which, believe me when I tell you is a great time) couldn’t mar the experience.

In the end, I wish I would have skipped over doubt and panic and went straight to “Wow, that is going to be so much fun.” Because it really was so much fun!

   – Story shared by Codi Darnell, Power To Be participant and author of the blog Help Codi Heal.

From all of us at Power To Be, we want to send a heartfelt thanks to our participant families from Spinal Cord Injury BC, the amazing staff from Pacific Surf Co, Karley Bracey of Bracey Photography and YVR for providing the funding for this trip.