Thieves take surfboards for disabled riders, wounded veterans

Thieves take surfboards for disabled

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's like stealing from the disabled.

AccesSurf, which teaches the handicapped and wounded veterans how to surf and enjoy the ocean, says that two of its surf boards were stolen last night from a truck in Saint Louis Heights.

"Having the boards taken, it's pretty upsetting," said Jesse del Mar, a disabled surfer, who has taken part in AccesSurf's programs for more than six years.

"That board helps out with a lot of people that comes to the program."

The stolen boards include a 12-foot rescue board and a custom-made, 12-foot Infinity Adaptive Board that's used for tandem surfing.

The value: About $2,000.

Cara Troy, program director for AccesSurf, said the tandem board is used by many beginners who can go out surfing with an instructor.

It was a favorite board used by one of its better known volunteers, local surfing legend Buttons Kaluhiokalani, who recently died of cancer.

"Our equipment is what makes our program run and because what we do is taking disabled people surfing and providing ocean access ... without that equipment, we can't do that," Troy said.

Del Mar said he was able to relearn how to surf on one of the stolen boards after he broke his neck on a surfing accident off the Big Island about 16 years ago.

"It just that being in the water heals the soul," del Mar said.

"It gives me a sense of independence."

Once a month, AccesSurf takes about 70 disabled people to White Plains beach at Barbers Point, where they teach them to surf and enjoy the ocean.

They also conduct monthly surfing outings for wounded veterans.

Without the boards, the nonprofit will end up serving fewer people -- unless the boards are returned or it can raise enough money to buy replacements.

"We're just looking to get the boards back, no questions asked," Troy said.

AccesSurf is asking anyone with information to call 748-1820.

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