ATLANTIC BEACH | She had to be rolled to the ocean’s edge with the help of a wheelchair but when Lauren Goodwin paddled out against the waves, it was just her on a surfboard with a few new friends at her side.
And then the free feeling of riding the waves back to shore.
“I got a little panicky going out but they turned me around and that was it,” Goodwin said after returning to shore. “The waves are going over you and it’s just awesome.”
Goodwin, a Newport resident, quickly declared surfing “way better than body surfing.”
She was smiling and laughing with the volunteers who had come out to help her with her first surfing experience but the day wasn’t about surfing alone.
A degenerative nerve disorder has left Lauren on the sidelines of one of her favorite activities.
She and one of her friends used to visit Fort Macon State Park every Saturday together to walk the beach, swim, collect sea glass and do all things beach-y.
Goodwin now gets around with crutches but she can no longer maneuver the sandy dunes and beach and chronic illness has robbed her of mobility.
She still visits the beach access at Fort Macon State Park but watches the beach at high tide from the parking lot.
But not on Saturday.
“I have good days and I have bad days and this is a pretty darn good day,” Goodwin said.
She loved the smell of the sea breeze and the sand on her skin.
Her husband of 25 years, Brian Goodwin, noticed the joy his wife felt as she got in some quality beach time.
“I haven’t seen a smile that big on her face in a long time,” he said.
Goodwin was one of the participants in Wheel to Surf, an adaptive surf event held at the bathhouse at Fort Macon.
The event was organized locally by Carteret County resident Christine Chadwick in partnership with the team at Adaptive Surf Project.
The nonprofit organization based in North Myrtle Beach provides surfboards to accommodate people with disabilities and establishes a network of surfers who will take them out surfing.
For Chadwick, there’s a personal reason for organizing the event.
Her brother, Donny Butterworth, was injured in a dirt bike accident at the age of 17. He broke his neck in the accident and became quadriplegic.
Chadwick said her brother passed away at the age of 29 and his life gave her a deeper understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face in their daily lives.
“I’ve always felt that I need to do something to give back (to others in similar circumstances),” she said.
While she doesn’t ride dirt bikes as her brother did, Chadwick saw a way to help through her interest in surfing.
Chadwick said she has volunteered at Life Rolls On events and met the Josh Gillikin and the late Jerry Kelley, also from Carteret County, and they all discussed the idea of bringing an adaptive surf event to Carteret County.
Chadwick said she reached out to the team at Adaptive Surf Project about organizing an event and they agreed to help.
She now hopes this first event will lead to more in the future.
Chadwick said it’s an opportunity to share the freedom of surfing with those who might not be able to enjoy the experience otherwise.
“It’s such a good feeling to be able to surf; it’s such a free feeling and I want to be able to share that with someone who may not be able to surf on their own,” Chadwick said.
Lauren Goodwin gave Gillikin, who is quadriplegic, a high five before he headed out for a ride on the surfboard.
“I just think it’s great that they are able to do something like this,” she said.
The event was held in memory of Donny Butterworth and Jerry Kelley.