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Surfers with Spinal Injuries Ready to Hit the Waves

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WILDWOOD CREST — On June 19, young people with spinal cord injuries will get a chance to ride surfboards here as Life Rolls On presents “They Will Surf Again.”

Chad DeSatnick, who sustained a spinal injury while surfing off Cape May, is a local organizer for Life Rolls On, a division of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. He said he was fortunate not to suffer permanent paralysis.

Participants range from folks who recovered like DeSatnick to those who are full quadriplegics. Life Rolls On provides activities for those individuals such as surfing, skiing and skateboarding.

Volunteers who sign up to assist at the event include physical, occupational and rehabilitation therapists who are very familiar how to transport the surfers from their wheelchair onto the surfboards, said DeSatnick.

“The boards are anywhere from 10 to 11 feet and because the boards are so big, that allows them to ride tandem…” he said.

Safety is foremost with 14 to 16 people in the water with one surfer. Volunteers work in a team, said DeSatnick.

“They form a chain that goes out into the ocean, so if the person on the board falls off, although they are wearing a life jacket, there are volunteers right there to help them right themselves,” he said.

DeSatnick said the event in 2009 had 17 surfers and about 110 volunteers. He said there needs to be a level of comfort from the person with a spinal cord injury who signs up to surf in the event. The event also is a social event for those with spinal injuries.
Some participants have never been on a surfboard, said DeSatnick.

While the experience is thrilling for the surfers, volunteers come away equally as happy, he said.
All the surfboards and wetsuits are donated, as is breakfast from Avalon Coffee and lunch from pizza shops.

“Once someone suffers a spinal cord injury, their life is not over and I think that is a mentality that some people get,” said DeSatnick.

The event begins at 9 a.m. at the Rambler Road Beach in Wildwood Crest on June 19. Surfers need to bring a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen and “a go-for-it attitude.”
Information is available at

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