WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Surfing is an island tradition and practically a way of life in Hawaii, but now, people who never thought they could surf, are catching a wave.
Thursday afternoon, a group of unique surfers took to the water for a surf competition, but this is no ordinary race. These folks have overcome enormous odds to be here.
Hawaii gave birth to surfing, and shared it with the world. Mark Matheson is a local boy from Kailua. Surfing is in his blood.
"Everybody that's been in the water, it's a sense of freedom, the thrill," said the 46-year-old surfer. "Anybody that's been in the water bodysurfing, surfing, it's just a wonderful feeling."
An accident a few years ago almost killed him.
"Fell and broke my back," said Matheson. "Fell off a balcony. Had a four-story fall, and crushed my back. Lucky to be alive. Take every day as it comes."
Through Access Surf Hawaii, Matheson gets a chance to be his old self again, enjoying the ocean like he did when he was a boy.
"The organization has opened up the water and the beach," he said. "The mat you see in front of us, that in and of itself makes it accessible for people with all sorts of disabilities."
So, with his wife Stacie's support, Matheson gets ready to compete in the "Duke's Oceanfest Surf Contest."
Matheson does what he's done hundreds of times before, and makes it look easy.
"My heart just ... it's just very exciting because you're so proud. You know, just really, really proud," said Stacie Matheson. "It kind of gives you the chills. I'm so proud of him. I just get so excited."
"It gives me chicken skin," said Mark Marble, president and CEO of Access Surf Hawaii. "It does because as they go through almost like a rebirth, reuniting again with the water, and they come out with that joy."
And that joy is nothing like anything in the world.
"It's hard to describe, being out in the water is the best thing," said Matheson. "I don't know how to put words to it."
Sometimes, words aren't necessary at all.
Access Surf Hawaii has sessions the first Saturday of each month, but organizers hope to expand that to every day. They're talking with city officials to try and make that happen.