Virginia Beach, Va. – Empowerment. Healing. Camaraderie.
It’s what Life Rolls On is all about – and surfers from all walks of life and all ability levels came together in Virginia Beach August 9th to share the stoke of riding a wave.
Life Rolls On is a national organization – a non-profit that inspires others to see the boundless possibilities beyond paralysis.
They Will Surf Again is the signature program of Life Rolls On. The event has been held at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront since 2008, but the organization as a whole has roots dating back to 1996.
Established in 2002, LRO’s signature adaptive surfing program, They Will Surf Again, has grown into a catalyst of hope for thousands of individuals throughout the world, according to the LRO website.
They Will Surf Again empowers paraplegics and quadriplegics to demonstrate that anything is possible despite paralysis.
The Life Rolls On organization also promotes spinal cord injury awareness, and offers outreach to individuals and their families at the onset of injury.
They Will Surf Again is a highly anticipated event for locals here in Virginia Beach.
I spoke with Jeremy Alan Phelps, organizer/surfer for Life Rolls On: They Will Surf Again. The event holds a special place in his heart.
“It changed my life because I was a surfer growing up ever since I was 15. I was paralyzed in a surfing accident in July of 1999. All I wanted to do was get back in the water and I was trying to figure out how to do that before I even left the hospital.”
Years later in 2008, Phelps was approached to help organize and put on the very first “They Will Surf Again” event for the Hampton Roads area.
“Finally I was going to have a chance to get back into the water and do what I loved so much,” Phelps says. “The one passion that had been taken away from me when I was 24.”
The people involved in They Will Surf Again are mostly part of the Virginia Beach surf community, Phelps says.
“Some of them are friends, some are therapists, and then there’s those that just want to help.”
The Virginia Beach community has banded together not only to take part in the activity they love – surfing – but to help others experience the joy of catching waves.
Brian Stokes, Deep Water Team Captain for They Will Surf Again in Virginia Beach, has been volunteering for Life Rolls On for the past four years.
“I enjoy acting as a Team Captain with Life Rolls On: They Will Surf Again, because I get to help people who normally can’t get to the beach and surf by themselves. Some of these people travel long distances, they wait all year – this is their single peak time to go surfing out of the year. This is their only chance,” Stokes says.
Stokes, a longtime surfer and award winning tandem surfer along with his wife, Cindy Stokes, says it’s all about giving back to those who want to enjoy their time out in the water.
“I feel like I have a good opportunity to share my talents and my knowledge with those who could really use it.”
It wouldn’t be the same without the volunteers, who come out and share their passion for surfing with those who may only have the opportunity that one time of year.
“Without them volunteering, it would be impossible for any of us that are disabled to get out in the water and surf. They are the ones that help us in the water, that push us into the waves, and make it possible for so many to either get back in the water and surf again or experience it for the first time,” Phelps added.
The event is always held the second weekend of August.
Next year’s event is scheduled for August 8, 2015.