Shivani has been a part of our ‘Ohana for quite some time and is an incredible water woman that we can always rely on. Her beauty and grace flow from land to sea. If you were lucky enough to join our pop up in the parks amidst the pandemic, Shivani was kind enough to donate her time to provide an apnea breathing class. She is an incredible free diver, canoe paddler and all around water woman. We hope to recruit her as our go to double wave ski volunteer and cant wait till we get that opportunity!

1. Tell us a little about yourself !

I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago, raised in Brampton, Ontario. Ten years ago, I moved to the USA to complete a Master’s in Speech and Language Pathology. Since then, I have worked in diverse, coastal communities, providing rehabilitation services to individuals with communication deficits. Living near the ocean, I began diving, paddling, surfing and sailing to the point where I do one or more of these activities daily. My passions are in ocean advocacy; promoting a sustainable environment, as well as facilitating inclusive spaces in water sports and activities so that anyone interested can discover the outdoors in a way that sparks their own joy.

2. How did you get started with Accessurf.

I do not recall how I heard about AccesSurf, but I do remember 5 years ago showing up to White Plains for a ‘Day at the Beach’ and feeling overwhelmingly in awe at the set up. Watching surf coaches taking people in and out of the break, excited parents snapping photos from the shoreline, participants laying, sitting and standing, assisted and unassisted on waves; the feeling of excitement from everyone involved in this production was in the air and easy to absorb.  Some participants chose not to surf, and swam or floated instead, just as excited – it was this magical event that just invited everyone into the ocean.

3. What does AccesSurf mean to you?

AccesSurf is more than an organization, it is a community, a family and an open door to opportunity. AccesSurf has monthly calendar events which bring everyone together in the ocean, with space to commune, and also invites visiting participants from the mainland or from abroad for a chance to try these same activities off schedule. This is what truly sets this organization apart. Where there is a need, coaches and organizers make ‘above and beyond’ effort to create inclusivity no matter the cognitive, physical or emotional difference of the individual. Beyond this, witnessing participants further elevate their athleticism through participation in local, mainland and foreign surf competition adds a whole other layer to their success. Not only do individuals get a chance to try surfing, but we all get to see potential beyond the ‘Day at the Beach’ events.

4. Can you think of your favorite AccesSurf memory?

Witnessing my first Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championship in Waikiki. Seeing the international adaptive athletes from so many different countries come to compete at the Queens/Canoes surf breaks for the first time was an extraordinary experience. Competitors came from all walks of life and gave their hearts and souls on the waves. After each heat, they were greeted by one another with cheers and tears – no matter who a person was, they were accepted and received as comrades and equals. Participants of AccesSurf events who did not compete, still came along with their families to watch and show support. I think everyone who attends one of these events leaves with their hearts swollen with fresh inspiration. As someone who works with individuals with special needs in the classroom in a rehabilitative and vocational way, it means everything to see perspectives and a whole world of possibility outside of academics and basic functional skills – a freedom to be oneself.

5. Any last words/remarks or anything you want to say to the community?

I have so much gratitude for every single experience I have had with AccesSurf. It has taught me more about my own career, how to communicate with others, and how to have a positive mindset. I just want every ocean athlete to join a surf therapy program at least once, to experience and learn what this ‘stoke’ is all about, from satisfied smiles and giggles on waves, to supportive clapping on the shore. AccesSurf has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be connected with the natural world.