LivAbility Magazine

Edition 17 | Summer 2019

Hang ten: nonprofit showing kids the benefits of adapted surfing in Mexico

Story by Brielle Carter & Rebeca Cavazos
Photo courtesy of Surfeandos Sonrisas

Over the last four years, Ability360 has hosted and mentored a delegate from the U.S. Department of State and the University of Tennessee’s Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP): Sport for Community.

The program focuses on empowering emerging leaders to serve their local communities by increasing access and opportunities for participation in sports.

This year, Ability360 was honored with Daniel Gomez, our fifth delegate.

During Gomez’s mentorship, he developed a detailed action plan to address challenges sports programs face in México. Action plans are designed to be implemented upon the emerging leaders’ return home and have the common goal of creating sports opportunities for underserved and disadvantaged populations.

In three weeks, Gomez was able to try out all adaptive activities that Ability360 has, e.g. adaptive golf, climbing, wheelchair paddle boarding, power soccer and even the terrain hopper.

To help his cause, Ability360 sent Gomez home with a beach wheelchair, pop-up tent, marketing materials, knowledge of an independent-living lifestyle, partnerships, what an inclusive fitness center looks like and much more.

Since Gomez has left Ability360, he has secured an alliance with the largest surf culture and sports platform, the Surf Open League, a promotional platform of those involved in the surf industry in México with those who hope to turn the capital into a hub of professional surfing festivals, exclusive tourist experiences, management of elite athletes, and specialized products, which Surfeando Sonrisas clinics will be part of.

Surfeando Sonrisas is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of children with disabilities through adapted surfing based in México City.

Founded by Gomez and a group of friends, Surfeando Sonrisas’ main focus is to fight against the misguided mindset that people have about disability in the country. Gomez works spreading awareness through motivational speeches in the community where he speaks about social inclusion and promotes self-confidence and independence.

There are four core programs that Surfeando Sonrisas fosters. One is existing surf schools, where Gomez works on training surfing schools, providing knowledge about the equipment needed to become inclusive to all abilities. There are also clinics that Surfeando Sonrisas offers to children with disabilities; if there is a child interested in furthering their development as a surfer, they offer grants to help them continue with training. Finally, every summer they have the #SubeteAlaOla annual event.

Just about a month after his visit in Ability360, Gomez returned back to México, full of energy and ideas to make the second edition of this annual event happen. Thanks to his determined attitude, not even the short timeframe to plan nor the challenge to manage everything from a distance were enough to stop Gomez from delivering a great event.

This year, Surfeando Sonrisas received 45 participants, 30 of them with physical disabilities, 50 volunteers, 10 instructors and eight staff members. In total, more than 200 people congregated in Playa Bonfil in Acapulco, Guerrero to surf.

If you would like to learn more about Surfeando Sonrisas and how you can help Gomez and his team continue to support, visit:

Brielle Carter wearing a blue shirt

Brielle Carter

Brielle Carter works as a program manager at Ability360’s Sports & Fitness Center. She’s a Waterford, Wisconsin native, where she grew up on a farm and was involved in 4-H. Her favorite athletic activity is indoor cycling.

Read more by Brielle Carter.

Portrait: Rebeca Cavazos

Rebeca Cavazos

Rebeca Cavazos is a graphic artist known for her creative designs and her daredevil spirit. You’ll find her rock climbing, SCUBA diving and surfing any weekend she’s not playing “mommy-taxi” to Hermosillo or organizing advocacy events. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Cavazos is a full-time wheelchair-user who joined Ability360 in 2015.

Read more by Rebeca Cavazos.