AccesSurf is a nonprofit creating community based programs for anyone with a disability to enjoy the water!
AccesSurf empowers people with physical and cognitive disabilities through accessible water programs.
In following the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku, AccesSurf continues to be a pioneer in the advancement of adaptive water sports, ocean recreation, and therapeutic instruction for people with disabilities throughout the state of Hawaii and worldwide.
AccesSurf was born of humble beginnings, a few pickup trucks and lots of duct tape and a determination to adapt in any way possible to get those with disabilities back in the water. Original founders Mark Marble and Rich Julian, along with two other original board members Kate Julian and Amen Somal started first with a small trial run in November of 2006, followed by the first ever “Day at the Beach” the next month.
For the first seven years Mark Marble served as Executive Director, during this time AccesSurf and the Day at the Beach program continued to grow steadily. Mark forged partnerships for special programs with Make-A-Wish Hawaii and initiatives with City and County to establish permanent beach access, and even provided safe beach access for the Dalai Lama to bless the Hokulea. In 2011, a second monthly program was added – Wounded Warrior Day at the Beach – to serve our wounded service men and women, providing them with healing ocean experiences and helping many of them with their transition to civilian life. In 2012 AccesSurf became Hawaii’s first and only Paralympic Sports Club.
In 2014, Cara Short became Executive Director, ushering in an era of rapid growth both for AccesSurf and adaptive surfing the world over. Our Day at the Beach program began seeing record numbers of participants and volunteers nearly each and every month. Quarterly swim and surf clinics were added, focusing on equipping participants with the skills needed to enjoy the water as independently as possible.
In 2015, the first ever World Championships for Adaptive Surfing were held in La Jolla by the International Surfing Association. AccesSurf was critical in developing the safety protocol and competitive classifications for the event and also helped found the Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team, who made a great showing that year. More than anything this event galvanized the global adaptive surf community and put AccesSurf on the world stage. Thanks to this exposure, our own annual adaptive surf competition held each year at Duke’s OceanFest, then became the world’s premiere competitive adaptive surfing event. 2016’s competition featured more than 60 athletes from 9 countries, showing just what adaptive athletes can do.
Today, AccesSurf hosts more than 40 events each year, facilitating well over 2500 ocean experiences annually and has a volunteer base of over 900 people.