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Shared Adventures hosts its annual Day on the Beach at Cowell’s

Beach access is for everyone, but for some individuals an ocean visit presents extraordinary challenges. Mobility limitations, difficulty with crowds or simply a fear of the unknown can make marine adventures feel out of reach, especially for people with physical and mental disabilities. That’s where Shared Adventures comes in.

Celebrating its 30th year, Shared Adventures is a nonprofit organization providing accessible adventures throughout the year in Santa Cruz and San Jose. It also hosts Day on the Beach (DotB), an annual event with music, food and accessible ocean adventures. This year the all-day party will be held June 13 at Cowell’s Beach, with live music provided by Buffalo Blues Trio (11am-noon) and China Cats, the Bay Area’s premier Grateful Dead tribute band (1-4pm).

“Everybody is accommodated, cognitively and physically disabled,” says Foster N. Andersen, founder and executive director of Shared Aventures and the host of Day at the Beach. Among this year’s adventures will be kayaking, scuba diving, canoeing and riding on ocean flotation chairs. Participants are quadriplegics and people with cerebral palsy, autism and other physical and developmental challenges.

“When I went out, it was a little stingray, a bat ray floating over the water, and you could see the sea lions and hear the music,” Andersen says. “I’ve had some quadriplegics go kayaking. They just come back so wide-eyed. It’s a really life-changing experience.”

An engineering school graduate, Andersen started Day on the Beach after a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident resulted in him becoming quadriplegic. After quitting his engineering job, he started surfing Cowell’s Beach behind the Dream Inn with the help of a small group.

The surfing event “was really started by Foster for people with physical disabilities,” says Steve Miller, board chair for Shared Adventures.

Once Andersen set eyes on an adaptive beach chair, he came up with an idea to get more disabled people out to enjoy the beach.

As Andersen’s surfing group added more activities and participants, holding the surfing activity along with everything else became rather cumbersome, Miller explains. “So there was a mutual agreement that they would break off and create their own organization, which is Ride-A-Wave.” Founded in 1998, Ride-A-Wave offers monthly surf camps for children with physical, developmental or economic challenges.

Using his grant-writing skills, Miller obtained funding from the Coastal Conservancy and now Shared Adventures serves thousands of adaptive adventurists. This is the third year that Shared Adventures has benefited from the conservancy’s Explore the Coast program, which helps nontraditional populations use coastal resources.

“I heard about it [the Explore the Coast grant] and said DoTB should be the poster child for this program,” Miller says. “For a lot of people it’s the one day a year they get to the beach.”

It takes a full brigade of volunteers to make Day on the Beach a success, and Carpenters Union Local 505 is the key to making it all happen. Union volunteers build all the ramps and platforms right on the sand. “They’re going to be laying down all the platforms, framing and two by fours,” Andersen says. “They get a whole group to put down over 200 feet of plywood. It’s a little city on the beach for one day.” San Lorenzo

Lumber has been a big sponsor from the very beginning with plywood and lumber, Miller adds.

Day at the Beach can accommodate more than 100 people, including 30 kayakers, a scuba venue, beach wheelchairs and outrigger canoes. In partnership with Shared Adventures, Dominican Hospital provides a Hoyer Lift along with physical therapists and occupational therapists to get people out of wheelchairs and into kayaks. A floatation chair designed with balloon tires is donated by Wheeleez Beach Chair Co. for the day. “That’s the one that submerges in the water. That’s for the scuba venue,” Andersen says.

Additionally, California State Parks provides adaptive beach chairs; Santa Cruz Outrigger Club and Aqua Safaris Scuba Center supply canoes and gear; and Bay Area-based Sai Baba group serves samosas, veggie sandwiches and other consumables to participants. Photo opportunities are available at the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center at 35 Pacific Ave.

Recognizing the importance of the event, the City of Santa Cruz after 30 years finally listed Day at the Beach in the Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation catalog, Miller notes. “They always kept us at arm’s length,” he says. But now, Director of Parks & Recreation Tony Elliot “came and watched the activity and said ‘Steve, you guys are doing our job for us.’ They have kind of embraced us.”

Elliott concurs: “Shared Adventures is integral as a leader and service provider for inclusive recreation in Santa Cruz. The services they provide are unique, engaging and powerful in changing lives for the better. Recreation is at the heart of Santa Cruz, and Shared Adventures is one-of-a-kind in terms of its commitment and service to making recreation accessible to all.”

With experimental ramps, a new trail and a groundbreaking ceremony for adaptive users, this year “is off the beaten path,” Andersen says.

The event is free, although pre-registration is required. Experienced kayakers and other volunteers may register online, along with people to help set up the event.

To help with the parking situation, free parking is available at Roaring Camp Railroad, with a discount on train rides to the beach for Day on the Beach ticket holders.Shared Adventures is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that hosts a wide variety of adventures throughout the year, including boating, adaptive yoga, gardening, horseback riding and more. Volunteers may register at sharedadventures.org or email in**@sh**************.org.


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