Adaptive surfing brings life-changing hobby to Socastee High School student

SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A local nonprofit that helps people with disability navigate the waves of surfing has been a life-changing experience for Socastee High School’s Bryson Dowdy.

Born with spina bifida, Dowdy’s inability to walk hasn’t stopped his love of sports — and taking to the ocean on a surfboard is just his newest passion.

“I went out there last week and actually tried it all on my own,” Dowdy said. “It feels great, honestly. The first time I came in, I was like, ‘yeah.’”

The Adaptive Surf Project lays mesh across city beaches to make the sands more accessible for people in wheelchairs. Most recently, the group was in Atlantic Beach, using a $195,000 grant to improve 10 access points. It also has done work in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island.

Using his waist and shoulders to propel himself onto the board, Dowdy can ride the waves with instructors who coach him on strength and balance.

“You can’t keep him out of the ocean,” Dowdy’s mother Emily Streets said. “I saw a huge change in Bryson with the water, just that first day.”

Streets said no sport is off-limits to her son, and she knows he’ll keep trying new ones as he grows.

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Gabby Jonas joined the News13 team as a multimedia journalist in April 2024. She is from Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Kent State University in May 2023. Follow Gabby on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and read more of her work here.

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