Encinitas Lions Club Blind Surfing San Diego

Every year, the Lions Club of Encinitas gives local blind and visually impaired residents the chance to surf. Photo: Encinitas Lions Club

On Sunday, for the twentieth year in a row, scores of blind and visually impaired locals gathered on the shores of sunny San Diego and did something equal parts unexpected and inspiring: They went surfing.

Organized through a partnership between the Lions Club of Encinitas in San Diego’s North County and the Swami’s Surf Association, the event known as Blind Surf drew in more than 50 visually impaired and blind Southern California residents eager to catch some waves. This year’s event also brought in a partnership with Hansen Surfboards and 150 volunteers to South Ponto Beach in Carlsbad, California.

“They’re courageous, because I wouldn’t do this," Bruce King, who helped organize the first event 20 years ago, told The Coast News Group. “I wouldn’t go out there and blind surf. No way. But those people are something else.”

Two decades ago, when King was the president of the Swami’s Surf Association, he was approached by Lions Club member Larry Graff who came to him after seeing a video of blind people waterskiing. His message was simple: If blind people can waterski, why not help them surf?

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While King took convincing, eventually he relented and the two started an event they still carry on to this day. King says the experience is unlike anything else he’s ever experienced.

Blind surfing event San Diego

While the surfers undoubtedly have a great time, event organizer Bruce King says the volunteers gain just as much from it. Photo: Encinitas Lions Club

“You can feel the emotion and you feel everything that’s good about this whole thing,” he told The Coast News Group. “And the only way to really feel that is to do it. You can’t convey it in words.”

The event not only inspired the local blind and visually impaired community, some of which claimed to have caught dozens of waves their first time surfing, but it also appears to have made an international impact: two Lions Clubs, one in Hawaii and another in Australia, have adopted the same Blind Surf event.

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