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Freedom Beyond Paralysis: Adaptive Surfing Event Takes Over Rockaway Beach

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)-- The surfboards were a little bigger and so were the smiles on Saturday afternoon in Rockaway Beach.

An adaptive surfing event took over the shoreline to give those who wouldn't normally have a chance a ride on the waves, CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

It was a family beach day for Ollie and his dad, Arthur Hoyt.

"I got to help five other kids surfing over there. I got to go surfing with my son-- it couldn't be better," Hoyt said.

For Nick Romanski, it's a reintroduction to Rockaway Beach.

"The water was really nice too, better than any cup of coffee you ever had, wake you up," he said.

For Shannon Shifrin, it's freedom.

"This is the first time I've done this since I haven't been able to walk and I haven't been able to go to the beach at all so this is great," she told CBS2.

The name of the event says it all: "They Will Surf Again." That's the goal for the foundation "Life Rolls On" and its founder Jesse Billauer.

"A lot of these people look forward to that 20 or 30 minutes for 364 days," Billauer said.

After breaking his neck in a surfing accident, the avid California surfer started the program to get adaptive athletes riding the waves from the Atlantic to the Pacific and beyond.

"Started in California but now we do events Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, Nova Scotia," he said.

It's the second year Margaret Deeney was able to stand on the shoreline as her son Ciaran had the time of his life.

"To watch my son on something that I thought he would never be able to do. And here he is surfing and he's blind and he's nonverbal," she said. "He loved it he was laughing and giggling."

It's a light that shines in the faces of volunteers and surfers alike and something that keeps organizers going.

"If you can do something that is as challenging and as unlikely when you have a disability as this, you can do many other things," Alex Elegudin, of Wheeling Forward, said.

"They Will Surf Again" requires hundreds of volunteers and about $10,000 in donations. For the participants everything is free. They say the experience is priceless.

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