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A Partnership That’s Making Waves

About the Western Surfing Association

Access Trax is proud to share that in the summer of 2019, the company partnered with the oldest amateur surfing association in the USA: the Western Surfing Association (WSA). Each year, the non-profit hosts around 9 fun, family-oriented surf competitions on the West Coast. Some of the contests occur in San Diego, Oceanside, and Huntington Beach for example. Surfers who compete in the WSA may qualify for USA Surfing contest including the USA Surfing Championships. WSA events are awesome because there is a surf division for everyone. From “micro groms” (under age 10) all the way to “super legends” (60+ years old), they’ve got you covered! So how did Access Trax get introduced to the Western Surfing Association? The answer is adaptive surfers!

What is an Adaptive Surfer?

It is someone who surfs the waves, just using a different way adapted to their needs and preferences. This totally depends on the person. They may use a board laying on their stomach, kneeling, sitting, or even standing but with a prosthetic leg for example. They may have a physical disability such as a spinal cord injury, they may have a hearing or visual impairment and surf with a partner, or they may surf with extra equipment like special fins or a helmet. These are just a few examples- the important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to catch a wave as long as you’re having fun!

Adaptive surfer Spike Kane comes in from a surf heat on his waveski.

Adaptive surfer Spike Kane comes in from a surf heat on his waveski.

2016: Pathway to Partnership

Access Trax CEO Kelly Twichel has been volunteering at Western Surf Association events since 2016, when she and co-founder Eric Packard tested out their first handmade pathway with adaptive surfers. It was a sunny day in Ocean Beach, California. Kelly and Eric were Occupational Therapy students eager to help the adaptive surfers cross the sand from the parking lot to the contest area. They brought their handmade portable pathway (shown below) and got to work using it to help the surfers cross the sand 10 feet at a time. “It took some time since we only had two 10-foot sections, but it worked, and that was so encouraging and exciting” Kelly recalls.

Original prototype tested with adaptive surfers.

Positive Results

The five adaptive surfers gave great feedback and validated that the pathway was something they wanted and needed for greater accessibility and independence. The crew at the Western Surfing Association took notice of the pathway and students that day. Over the next few years with improved prototypes, Kelly volunteered at more WSA events to help surfers get across the sand. More and more adaptive surfers have started to compete at WSA events, so the need for a stable pathway over the sand grew. This set the stage for a great partnership that became official in 2019.

The Growth of Adaptive Surfing

Since 2016, the growth of adaptive surfing has skyrocketed worldwide. Surf associations in different countries have started to include and recruit adaptive surfers so they can compete at the World Adaptive Surf Championship. This championship (recently renamed the World Para Surf Championship), is an annual event in San Diego which started in 2015. It brings together the best adaptive surfers from all over the world where they compete as individuals and teams.

Surfers and family gather at the end of the pathway to hang out and watch the competition.

For more info on this epic event, check out our event post. In order to be selected for Team USA Adaptive Surfing, surfers must compete at specific events. Many competitors use WSA events as a way to fine tune skills, have fun, and practice for the qualifiers. This means that now more than ever, the WSA needs an accessible beach pathway. This is where Access Trax comes in!

The Partnership

In the summer of 2019, Access Trax and the WSA came together to officially collaborate. The goal was to improve beach access for not only adaptive surfers, but all participants and spectators at their competitions. The WSA now has their own set of Beach Trax to take with them at each event and set up for portable accessibility. The Beach Trax pathway simply accordion folds onto the sand for quick and easy set up. When not in use, the panels fold and stack flat so it easily fits in the WSA trailer.

Here’s what Randy Gilkerson of the WSA has to say about the partnership: “We at WSA love the Beach Trax. It not only helps our adaptive athletes access the events but helps parents and kids with strollers and our staff loading and unloading from the beach to the parking lots.” We are proud to partner with such an awesome surfing organization, and look forward to all the possibilities!

Two people pose for a photo.