SANTA CRUZ — Cowell Beach was decked out Saturday with about 300 plywood frames placed on the sand to set the stage for the local nonprofit Shared Adventures’ 28th annual Beach Day.
The event gives people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the sun and sand on Cowell Beach and participate in a variety of ocean activities such as floatation, kayaking and scuba diving.
“This is one of the most labor intensive and rewarding events we run all year,” said Foster Andersen, Founder and Executive Director of Shared Adventures. “We are bringing together people with disabilities and people who have expertise in water sports to do something very special.”
With hundreds of participants hanging out on the beach and heading out to sea on outrigger canoes and kayaks, and volunteers organizing and coordinating the multifaceted beach outing, this year’s event was one of the largest for Shared Adventures. Accompanied by live music from the New Hope Band, playing drums with Arthur Hull and surrounded by tents from non-profit organizations, this year’s event is very different from the first Day on the Beach nearly 30 years ago. years, according to the founder of the event.
“At the first event, me and others had been gathering pallets to put on the sand, and we only had about 30 people here,” Andersen said. “We surfed and maybe had a few kayaks.”
Volunteers from the Outrigger Santa Cruz organization scrambled to get participants in and out of the speed canoes while sporting seemingly permanent smiles, a common characteristic of volunteers and participants, especially those returning from a trip to the one of the canoes.
“The nervous face that comes out and the elation that comes back is really what’s most rewarding,” said Elizabeth Hutton, a volunteer with Outrigger Santa Cruz.
“Everyone is so excited because they can do things that they normally couldn’t do with such a large group of people,” said Heather McIsaac, another Outrigger Santa Cruz volunteer.
This year’s event was made possible through support from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, Allison Lee Condit Foundation, Omega Nu, San Andreas Regional Center, California State Coastal Conservancy, and the efforts of about 100 volunteers from the local Carpenters Union 505.
“The event was pure chaos until the carpenters union arrived,” said volunteer Jonathon Adler. “And now it’s like a well-oiled machine. Before they got involved, there were only volunteers with big hearts but small skills.
All the participants, their families and caretakers were delighted to be able to spend a day on the beach, like David Skotzke and his children David and Diana, who took an outrigger canoe trip.
“They have the opportunity to experience something that they would never have been able to experience otherwise. I couldn’t do it for them myself,” Skotzke said. “It’s just amazing and unlike any another event.”
Sentinel photographer Shmuel Thaler will feature more photos from Shared Adventures’ Beach Day on this week’s episode of Photographer’s Eye. The feature will be released in Thursday’s Sentinel and on santacruzsentinel.com.