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Surfboard with a seat unveiled in Huntington Beach, so all abilities can ride waves

The overcast skies, rough surf and chilly water were no matter, Emily Rowley was all smiles as the surfboard she sat on propelled on the ocean’s waves.

“I’ve never gone out in such big waves before,” Rowley said once she was back on dry land Friday morning.

Surf instructor Rocky McKinnon hopes more salty smiles result from his new invention: a 15-foot “chair board” to help adaptive surfers feel the thrill of catching waves.

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McKinnon and the city of Huntington Beach unveiled the chair board Friday, Oct. 22, near Tower 6 on the north side of the pier, where a blue Mobi Mat was recently installed for people who need assistance to get across the sand and closer to the water’s edge.

McKinnon, who owns McKinnon Surf & SUP Lessons, debuted the massive board in front of a crowd that gathered on the sand to see how it works.

The chair attached is a race car seat made of carbon fiber, and though the board he shaped looks big, it is made of lightweight material to give it more buoyancy on the water.

It’s not the first ever made, he noted, saying there was a shaper in Santa Cruz who in the past made a chair board. But McKinnon said he has refined the design, sinking the seat lower into the board for stability and performance.

He’s already tested it out on a few lucky surfers. He offers adaptive surf lessons through his program.

“This particular board here has put a lot of smiles on people’s faces,” he said.  “I saw a gap, a need, to provide a really fun experience to people who normally wouldn’t have that. This chair here is going to change the face of how we ride waves here in Surf City, Huntington Beach.”

Mayor Kim Carr, who handed McKinnon a commendation for his efforts to make the city more inclusive for people with special needs, echoed those thoughts.

“It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to do it,”  Carr said, noting the city just installed a second “Mobi Mat” on the south end of the pier for better access to the shoreline. “Rocky has been amazing in our community, he’s been a part of the surfing community forever and to bring adaptive surfing to Huntington Beach, it speaks to Surf City that surfing is for everybody.

“The water is so healing, and has so many restorative benefits to it,” Carr said. “For people to experience it, I think it’s so important.”

Former councilman Patrick Brendan called McKinnon’s heart “as big as the ocean.”

“It really touched my heart,” said Brendan, representing the Kiwanis Club, which helped fund the board and an adaptive beach wheelchair. “It’s an amazing commitment to the community”

Addressing McKinnon, he said, “What you’re doing is important and lifts people’s spirits. In today’s world, we need every opportunity to lift spirits.”

Rowley, who lives at Camp Pendleton, had no nerves Friday morning, despite the big waves dumping on the shore. The 20-year-old, who was born without arms, said she had full faith in McKinnon, who has helped her catch waves several times before.

If there’s one thing she knows about McKinnon, she said, it that he never steps down from a challenge.

“Even when waves are rough, he makes things happen and puts smiles on people’s faces,” she said. “I know he’s excited to debut this awesome surfboard and get kids out there.

“I think it’s awesome to be more inclusive and give people the opportunity,” she said. “When you’re on the water, it’s really freeing to be going that fast on the waves and catching them. Someone like me, I didn’t think I’d be going surfing. Rocky gave me that opportunity.”

She recalled having a fear of the ocean that has since disappeared. Now, she even does open water swims.

McKinnon said it comes down to one thing: a person’s desire to ride waves.

“I will find a way to get you in the water.”


Source: Orange County Register

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