Laurel Winterbourne-Clark, writer, shares the good word of High Fives most recent surf trip!
Photos by Trevor Clark
The High Fives Foundation squad is out in the water cheering at the boundary line as Jeff Andrews makes the steep drop, turns and floats over a section of the wave like he’s been surfing his whole life. It’s the finals of the Duke Ocean Surf Fest at the iconic Queens surf break in bustling Waikiki on the Island of Oahu, HI. Jeff has only been surfing for six months. His ear-to-ear smile and determined look says it all. He’s addicted.
Jeff was a snowboarder living the outdoor adventure life in Lake Tahoe when he experienced an unfortunate accident at SugarBowl Ski Resort. He went off a jump and landed on his neck breaking his C6 vertebrae leaving him without the use of his legs and limited dexterity in his hands and arms.
Before his accident Jeff had never envisioned himself competing in a surf competition and he certainly didn’t after his accident. It was all made possible by his resilient spirit, hard work and the support of the High Fives Foundation. According to Jeff, surfing is the best thing he’s done since his injury and probably the best thing he’s done in his entire life.
“I don’t know what the future holds for Jeff,” says High Fives Foundation’s founder and CEO, Roy Tuscany. “He may walk again. We just don’t know, but for now he has the freedom and stoke of surfing.”
Roy discovered the healing power of surfing in 2012. He has been sharing the surf stoke with as many High Fives athletes as possible ever since. In August of 2016, the foundation took six athletes to Oahu, HI to compete in the adaptive division of the Duke Ocean Surf Fest. It’s the seventh surf adventure for the Foundation. With each surf experience, Roy encourages the athletes to accomplish new goals and push themselves further to reach new levels. Competition was fierce with some of the world’s best adaptive surfers. Heats were won, there were a record number of interferences and everyone came out of the water with a smile on their face.
Hobart Dickinson, Jeff’s coach, waterman and surf assist, pushes Jeff into his final wave moments before the buzzer goes off to signal the end of his heat. Jeff Andrews glides down the line leaning into his turns and cutting back on the wave. When the ride is over the lifeguard picks him up on a Jet Ski and tows him back out to his cheer squad. We all swim and paddle towards him with huge smiles on our faces. We hug, high five, and yell at the top of our lungs, knowing in our hearts that Jeff just crushed his heat. He is going to be the Duke Ocean Fest champion for his division. A tear of joy spills down my cheek. This is what life is all about.
“This is humanity,” says High Fives athlete Josh Dueck.” This is what we need to be reminded of. It’s the collective stoke and positivity that makes this journey so epic. And love. So much love.”