Surfside Beach surfer has life-changing Valentine’s

Picture TylerValentine’s Day took on a special meaning for Surfside Beach’s Terrel Rawson. The 14-year-old surfer was presented with his very own custom surfboard by the Adaptive Surf Project.

Rawson began surfing last year during the Wheel to Surf event held in North Myrtle Beach. Wheelchair bound, Rawson was born with Spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and dislocated hips. But, it was an invitation to the Wheel to Surf event that changed his outlook on life.

“We heard about the Wheel to Surf event and the first one we went to, they got Terrel right out on a surfboard and the smile on his face was unbelievable,” said his mother Melody Rawson. “He loves the water, he’s always loved being in the water.”

Rawson attends Forestbrook Middle School and lives with his adoptive parents Melody and Lisa Rawson in Surfside Beach. He was given to them by his birthSized mother at the age of six weeks. His birth mother simply didn’t have the tools to care for him, and his adoptive parents welcomed him with a loving home.

Rawson might be wheelchair bound, but he doesn’t allow himself to be constrained by his circumstances. He’s also active in the Miracle League, Special Olympics, and finds joy in archery. Just like any other 14-year-old boy, he also enjoys riding his bike, a specially made tricycle.

But, it’s surfing that really allows him to spread his wings. “I feel free, knowing that there is no one to bother me, no negative comments running through my head,” said Rawson.

“For a child like Terrel, it makes him feel normal. He can just get out there like anybody else,” said mother Melody.

His other mother, Lisa Rawson, gets emotional when talking about seeing him out in the water, “To see him do stuff like this is amazing. When he first got on that surfboard, it was just unbelievable as a parent.”

Terrel has a message for those non-believers, “Even though people say negative things, that I can’t do something, this proves to them that I am able bodied and able to do things my own way, and on my own terms. Yes, I have a disability, and yes it affects me, but I am not going to let it destroy me.”

That surfboard will provide Terrel with the opportunity to surf on his own terms, but he’ll still need the help of volunteers to make it happen. “At this stage, Terrel needs someone to ride with him,” said Adaptive Surf Project director Brandon Bellegarde.  “One of the ways people can help is by volunteering. We’d like to develop a network to take these people surfing anytime they would like to go. We surf everyday and can’t imagine what it’s like not being able to surf.”

The Adaptive Surf Project teams up annually with the Wheel to Surf organization to give people with disabilities the opportunity to get into the water. This year, they’ll put on four events. Additionally, the Grand Strand chapter of the Eastern Surfing Association has integrated a heat into their contests for adaptive surfers.

Last year, the Adaptive Surf Project provided surfboards at no cost to four surfers; they expect to provide six to eight this year. Terrel’s board was originally made for another surfer, but in the past year, that surfer has progressed and is moving down to a smaller board with more performance.

EUse1ach of the boards is custom made by Todd Sutz, owner of Island Inspired Surfboards on Hwy 544, “Being able to design a board for a specific wave, person and purpose is what I do. I try to matchup the board with their need, or their level of disability. Some surfers can surf alone, and others need help.

“With this board, we put handles in it, so he has something to hold on to. We raised the rail and dipped out the deck. The rail is higher so that it doesn’t flip over. It also has a lift in the deck so they don’t have to lift their head so much. It’s big enough for someone to ride on the back with him, but at some point, that person can jump off and let him ride by himself.

“We have plans for more of these boards, but we need help from the community. Some of these surfers need help. They need to be met at the beach, someone to carry the board to the beach, get the individual down to the water, and then help them pack up when they leave. It’s a little bit of a production for some people, and not so much for others. As we move forward, we have plans to make each surfer a little more independent, or as independent as they want to be,” said Sutz.

The Adaptive Surf Project already has their next board in the works. It’ll be presented within the next couple of weeks to its new owner. Additionally, they have an event planned for April 18th in conjunction with the ESA and the Anderson Estep Surfing Championships.

For more info on the Adaptive Surf Project, find them online at http://www.adaptivesurfproject.com

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