At Southwest Airlines, we believe community is more than a place, it is at the heart of what brings us together. We believe in Living the Southwest Way, which is to have a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude. As we continue to expand as a company and our ties to the community, we are proud to mark the inaugural flight to Honolulu from San Diego. We join in the celebration by showcasing a non-profit based out of Honolulu, AccesSurf. For many years, AccesSurf has been a place that was built as an inclusive community that empowers people with disabilities through accessible beach and water programs. At the heart of their mission is to advance adaptive water sports, ocean recreation, and therapeutic instruction for people with disabilities. We are proud to partner with this Fun-LUVing non-profit which was born of humble beginnings and is now impacting on a world-wide level.
AccesSurf Hawai’i had its start with a few pickup trucks and lots of innovation and duct tape, along with a determination to adapt in any way possible to get people with disabilities back in the water. Since 2006, the Hawaii nonprofit has been changing lives by connecting people with disabilities to the healing power of the ocean. Over the years, AccesSurf Hawai’i has grown from a handful of surf friends to a network of thousands of participants, volunteers, and supporters around the world. That includes the Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team, who travels across the state, nation and the world to compete in top adaptive surf competitions. For world champion Ann Yoshida, the team has empowered her to reach her elite adaptive athlete goals.
AccesSurf offers a variety of free programs to anyone with a physical or cognitive disability, both for residents and visitors to the islands. Their goal is to create an inclusive community in which people with disabilities can access a controlled swim environment to develop their swimming skills as well as surfing, swimming, and beach activities with their families. They do this through a variety of events, among them Wounded Warrior Day, Day at the Beach, Canoe Day, Adaptive Swimming Clinic and more which allow participants the opportunity to experience a day at the beach in a safe, controlled and fun environment.
In March 2020, Southwest Airlines sponsored twelve members of the Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team and a crew of supporters as they flew from Honolulu to San Diego to compete in the 2020 AmpSurf ISA World Para Surfing Championships. In addition to the team’s fourth place win overall, four members of the Hawaii team also won top three places in their individual divisions, including Colin Cook of Waialua, who took home his first World Championship who shared, “I feel so honored and humbled to compete alongside such amazing surfers that have not only overcome so much, but have pushed to surf at their highest level.”
“We are so proud of the team that worked together to bring home a Para Surfing World Championship medal to Hawaii,” said Cara Short, Executive Director of AccesSurf. “They worked hard to train and compete throughout the year to prepare for the World Championships and brought the aloha spirit and stoke. We want to say a huge Mahalo to Southwest Airlines and everyone that helped Team Hawaii compete on the international stage, it would not have been possible without them.”