THE blessing of living near the beach is the water activities available. I’m particularly fond of catching waves on a boogie board. The exhilarating joy of riding waves is addictive. Imagine if you can’t experience that without the help of others.
The Disabled Surfers Association organises events for people with a disability to experience surfing. I had great time last year as a volunteer with the Bass Coast-Inverloch branch at last year’s Inverloch event and registered again without hesitation for this year’s event. I looked forward to spending time with people who are willing to help others. However, on February 9, ominous dark clouds covered the sky at Inverloch, and the weather prediction was grim. I was disappointed for the lost opportunity and felt for all those who were involved in organising this worthy event.
I was wrong. DSA decided to proceed despite the unfavourable weather of the predicted heavy rain, the strong wind and the big swell. DSA wasn’t reckless. Far from it. The safety of the surfers and volunteers was their priority, so conditions were monitored throughout the day. To be honest, when we arrived at the surf lifesaving club to complete registration, it was cold and miserable. The rain was heavy. So was my heart. I sincerely hoped for a positive outcome for everyone involved.
Once my registration was ticked off, I went straight up to the kitchen and started chopping up some fruits. A few people came upstairs to grab some tea and coffee to warm themselves up. Having a chat with them lifted me because I could see everyone was committed to make this event worthwhile no matter what the weather was. I was part of the team, and that’s what I focused on. I chopped fruits mindfully, went downstairs to serve them with a smile. By 11.30, all water volunteers, the DSA staff and the disabled surfers were bracing themselves on the beach. There was a significant drop in participation due to the weather, but I recognised many faces returning from last year’s event. Fortunately, the rain eased a little for the group photos at the start, and I could sense morale was up. Everyone was committed to make something wonderful happen for the disabled surfers.
I went back to the BBQ area where members of Lions Club were cooking sausages. I was introduced to friendly faces of this compassionate community-based organisation. They were a kind and funny bunch of people, and I enjoyed their company very much.
As soon as the sausages were cooked, we put each on a slice of bread, then put them in the tray with a bottle of tomato sauce to carry to the beach where the main activity was happening. There was an art to the sausage sandwich delivering. They had to be delivered with the right timing, and I had to try to keep them warm if I could.
Initially I served them when the group was just about to take the surfer out in the water. Of course, no one wanted to stuff themselves with food. I learned to observe how activities were conducted and approached people only when it was appropriate. When the timing was right, people’s appreciation was phenomenal. It’s a humble sausage sandwich. People had them many times before. On this occasion, I was treated as if I was delivering a feast fit for royalty. Everyone was grateful. I used my own body to shield food away from the strong wind and sand while I was waiting on the beach. Not only the surfers but volunteers – they were all having a ball under the dark sky. My heart was warmed by witnessing something magical happening.
By the time the last surfer decided to call it a day, and returned to grab more food, the sun was out. Music was playing and there was a big buzz in the air. Everyone’s spirit was lifted. It was a risky decision to go ahead, but in the end we gained so much. If we can run such a successful event on the horrendous day like this, the same event in March will be smooth sailing. Going through the photographs Rob took, my perception held. There were smiles everywhere. The surfers in the yellow rash vests, water volunteers in the blue, and DSA leaders in the red, we all played different parts, but orchestrated a beautiful harmonious music. We finished the event truly on a high note.
I volunteered to make summer for disabled surfers. By committing to something meaningful, I received so much in return. Throughout the event, I connected and engaged with many people whom otherwise I wouldn’t have met. It was a sheer delight to see many faces of disabled surfers lit up with joy. As I reflect on the value of volunteering itself, I do believe helping others is one of the most important activities we can participate in as human beings.