Annual event grows in popularity after nearly three decades
By Aric Sleeper
SANTA CRUZ >> Cowell Beach was decked out on Saturday with approximately 300 plywood frames placed on the sand to set the stage for local nonprofit Shared Adventures’ 28th annual Day on the Beach.
The event gives people with disabilities an opportunity to enjoy the sun and sand on Cowell Beach and engage in a variety of ocean activities such as floating, kayaking and scuba diving.
“This is one of the most labor intensive and rewarding events we do all year,” said Foster Andersen, founder and executive director of Shared Adventures. “We get people with disabilities and folks that have expertise in ocean sports to get together to do something that is very special.”
With hundreds of participants hanging out on the beach and heading out to sea on outrigger canoes and kayaks, and volunteers setting up and coordinating the multi-faceted beach outing, this year’s event was one of the biggest for Shared Adventures. Accompanied by live music from the New Hope Band, drumming with Arthur Hull, and surrounded by tents from supporting nonprofit organizations, this year’s event is vastly different from the first Day on the Beach almost 30 years ago, according to the event’s founder.
“At the first event, me and some others had gathered up pallets to put out on the sand, and we only had about 30 people here,” said Andersen. “We did some surfing and had maybe a couple of kayaks.”
Volunteers from the organization Outrigger Santa Cruz were hustling to get participants in and out of the swift canoes while wearing seemingly permanent smiles, a common feature of volunteers and participants, especially those coming back from a trip in one of the canoes.
“The nervous face going out and the elation coming back in is really what’s the most rewarding,” said Elizabeth Hutton, volunteer with Outrigger Santa Cruz.
“Everyone is just so excited because they get to do things they normally couldn’t do with such a great group of people,” said Heather McIsaac, another volunteer with Outrigger Santa Cruz.
This year’s event was made possible because of support from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, The Allison Lee Condit Foundation, Omega Nu, the San Andreas Regional Center, California State Coastal Conservancy and the efforts of about 100 volunteers from the local Carpenters Union 505.
“The event was sheer chaos until the carpenters union came along,” said volunteer Jonathon Adler. “And now it’s like a well oiled machine. Before they became involved it was just volunteers with big hearts but small skill sets.”
All of the participants, their families and caretakers were overjoyed to be able to spend a day on the beach, such as David Skotzke and his children David and Diana, who took a trip on an outrigger canoe.