Brandon Klein, a passionate 17-year-old surfer, has embarked on a remarkable journey to empower individuals with disabilities in Long Beach by allowing them to catch waves and experience the healing power of the ocean. Inspired by the sheer joy he witnessed when he helped a girl with cerebral palsy catch her very first wave, Klein set out to find a solution enabling adaptive athletes to enjoy the thrill of surfing to the fullest.
Klein, a senior at Jericho High School, has volunteered with Surf For All, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities learn to surf. Ever since discovering the exhilaration of riding the waves at 10, he has been drawn to the sport and its unique ability to bring happiness and freedom.
His experience with Surf For All deepened his connection to surfing and ignited his desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Reflecting on the girl he assisted, Klein recalls her unwavering determination and infectious enthusiasm for surfing.
This encounter propelled him to seek ways to enhance the experience for all participants of Surf For All. With this goal in mind, he contacted Ross Head, a renowned professor from Wales specializing in designing adaptive technology for children with brain conditions.
Head provided Klein with the design for an adaptive surfboard he had developed in 2015. Eager to turn this vision into reality, Klein sought the expertise of local surfboard-shaped Mike Becker. Together, they meticulously crafted an 11-foot carbon fiber board equipped with a racing seat tailored to meet the specific needs of adaptive athletes.
The project required approximately $3,000 in funds, which Klein raised through dedicated fundraising efforts.
Surfing: Transforming Lives, Inspiring Independence
Jim Mulvaney, co-founder of Surf For All, emphasizes the transformative power of surfing for individuals with disabilities.
His son, Danny, who has autism and is nonverbal, discovered surfing in 2002. Since then, Danny has conquered formidable waves that challenge even the most experienced surfers, gained physical prowess, and connected deeply with others.
Mulvaney believes the adaptive surfboard will enable people with disabilities to experience the ocean's healing nature with greater independence. Surf For All plans to utilize the board for tandem surfing activities involving volunteers and participants.
Dr. Eric Lamberg, a physical therapist and head coach for the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team, emphasizes the importance of adaptive sports in fostering a sense of community and inclusivity. He believes offering opportunities for individuals of varying physical and mental abilities is vital for their overall well-being.
Chris Rosa, president and CEO of the Viscardi Center, echoes this sentiment, highlighting the significance of adaptive leisure and athletics in creating a truly inclusive society. He stresses that people with disabilities derive the same benefits from sports, community engagement, and athleticism as those without disabilities.
Considering Long Island's strong connection to water-related activities, Rosa underscores the importance of ensuring that beaches and water sports remain accessible to all members of the community. Through his dedication and ingenuity, Brandon Klein is not only empowering adaptive athletes to catch waves but also fostering a culture of inclusivity and joy in Long Beach.
His efforts exemplify the profound impact that one passionate individual can make in transforming the lives of others, leaving a lasting legacy of inspiration and empowerment.