There are no ocean waves in St. Louis. We have to drive a long way to get to the ocean. Every summer we squeeze our stuff, ourselves, and our dog Buddy into the car and drive 1,100 miles to reach Vero Beach, Florida. Once we get there, it’s all about fun at the beach. I’ve wanted to be a surfer for a long time. My brother Brendan is a really good surfer, and my mom used to surf when she lived in Florida during college. I begged my mom to let me surf, and she promised to find a surf coach for me. He found me instead. One day when my mom and sister Maggie were taking an old surfboard to a surf shop for repairs, a surfer held the door open for them and helped them carry the board inside. They started talking and learned he’s a swim coach and surfing instructor. My mom asked him if he had any experience with Special Olympics or working with people with disabilities. He did and told her he would love to work with me. That’s how I met my friend, Coach Bill Bolton, in 2011.
First Coach Bill taught me the pop-up. We practiced it on the sand before trying it on a surfboard. I like being on the surfboard, floating in the ocean. I tried to pop-up to stand on the surfboard but didn’t make it up for long enough. I rode a lot of waves on my belly and knees but wiped-out when I got to my feet. I had so much fun surfing with Coach Bill in 2011, but I didn’t make it to standing on the board.
When we went to Florida this summer, I had more surfing lessons with Coach Bill. We worked hard on the sand and in the water. I wanted to ride a wave standing more than anything. On our third day together we took our surfboards out past a sand bar where small waves were breaking. I came close to standing each time, and on the last try of the day I got up on my feet and stayed up! I was so happy! So was Coach Bill.
We went to the same surfing spot the next day. Guess what? I got up so many times and rode wave after wave. My mom said, “You’re a surfer, Grace!” Coach Bill called me a “surf goddess.” My sister Maggie also tried surfing that day. She was great and became a surf goddess, too. It was one of the greatest days ever! I hope my story inspires you to go surfing or to try something new. I know you can do it! xoxo, Grace