Adaptive surfing and beach wheelchairs increase accessibility to the Oregon Coast

Adaptive surf experiences help people with disabilities enjoy surfing

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon Coast company is working to make the ocean accessible to more people by offering special amenities and experiences to get them out on the beach and in the water.

Bahama Boards opened in Coos Bay three years ago, and owner Greg Allen opened a second location in Cannon Beach a year later.

Allen said the stores both started out as typical surf shops where he sold and rented gear to customers, but that all changed when a customer named Larry, who was a double amputee, walked into the store to surf.

“Larry actually stimulated that, all that adaptive [surf] thing and started a whole new business,” Allen explained.

Photo of an adaptive surf lesson – photo courtesy of Greg Allen and Adaptive Surf

Bahama Boards now offers what it calls free adaptive surfing experiences for people with disabilities. Experiences, or lessons, are available every day of the week throughout the year and Bahama Boards can provide one or two instructors for the lesson, depending on the size of the group. They offer introductory and advanced courses.

Allen said the response to the program has been amazing so far and they’ve received lots of donations to keep it going and ensure it remains a free service.

“It’s been well received and we’re really happy with it,” he said.

Allen’s dedication to helping make the beach more accessible has not gone unnoticed. Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis asked if his store would be interested in overseeing the city’s beach wheelchair project.

Allen decided this would be a great addition to Bahama Boards’ services and agreed. Now her shop has two beach wheelchairs that anyone can use for free at any time, just book them in advance.

The chairs have large ball-shaped wheels that make it easier to navigate the sand and prevent them from sinking into the sand. They need someone to walk behind them and push them.

Two beach wheelchairs are available to borrow at Cannon Beach at Bahama Boards. Photo courtesy of Greg Allen

In addition to overseeing adaptive surfing experiments and beach wheelchairs, Allen said he also works with local surfboard manufacturers to create specialized boards for adaptive surfing. He said the designs will vary depending on the disability they are meant to accommodate.

“It’s been so well received that we find that once we have people there, the advice we have now is a bit cumbersome. So we are trying to create a board that makes it easier for them and also safer,” he said.

He said they are currently in the research and development stage but are looking at features such as adding foam to the board or concave the board in a way to make it more comfortable and strap people in better. .

Allen and his partners who run the Adaptive Surf program also plan to create an Oregon Coast training program for Paralympic athletes. He couldn’t share many details with KOIN 6 News about it, but said it looked very promising.

In order to keep these programs running and to ensure that they remain free for people, Allen is always accepting donations. He said he’s in the process of starting a nonprofit, but in the meantime anyone interested in donating to the Adaptive Surf program can contact him by calling or emailing Bahama Boards.

The City of Cannon Beach said anyone interested in donating to fund additional beach wheelchairs can contact the Haystack Rock Outreach Program at (503) 436-8060 or the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce at (503) 436-2623.

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