Nonprofit organization Ocean Cure installed a wheelchair accessible walkway on the beach for the summer.
For many who live by the coast, summertime means beach time. But for those with disabilities, particularly mobility impairments, having access to the ocean can be difficult.
Ocean Cure’s mission to change that is continuing this summer.
The organization installed about 50 yards of beach floor at Carolina Beach, running from the north access to the south access of the boardwalk. Volunteers installed the walkway on May 24, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, and it will remain installed until Labor Day. The beach flooring is made up of small plastic squares that snap together to form a long walkway. The material can withstand high pressure, has lots of traction and doesn’t get slippery, making it ideal for wheelchair use.
Founded in 2008 by elementary school teacher Kevin Murphy, Ocean Cure is a nonprofit organization that helps people with physical and mental disabilities to surf and enjoy the beach. Murphy, 39, started Ocean Cure as a nonprofit affiliate of the Odysea Surf School; many of the school teachers who spend their summers working at the surf school also volunteer for Ocean Cure.
For a long time, Ocean Cure laid down a couple hundred sheets of plywood on the beach during their big events, but the material was too slippery for long-term use.
Last year, Life Rolls On — a nonprofit that helps those with spinal cord injuries to surf and skate — donated about 2,500 square feet of beach flooring to Ocean Cure for large events. The floor was such a success that Murphy asked the Town of Carolina Beach if a walkway could be laid down for the entire summer. Ocean Cure offered to install and maintain it, and the town agreed. Ocean Cure volunteers work daily to maintain the floor and will temporarily remove it if extreme high tides or tropical storms affect Carolina Beach.
Murphy said the response to the beach flooring has been overwhelmingly positive and described a recent encounter with a Carolina Beach resident who uses a wheelchair for mobility.
“The very first day that we put it down, a guy and his wife — we invited them to come down on the walkway and check it out,” Murphy said. “They were just shocked and thrilled. He said he lived here and hadn’t been on the beach in three years.”
David Myers, a China Grove resident who uses a wheelchair for mobility and frequently comes to the coast to surf with Ocean Cure, said the walkway allows him to go on the beach without assistance or preparation.
“You don’t have to plan it out,” Myers said. “Instead of having to go through all that work of finding an alternate way or getting a group of guys to carry you, you can just kind of roll on out there.”
Along with Carolina Beach’s ADA accessible boardwalk and available beach wheelchairs, the beach floor will be installed every summer from now on, said Murphy.
Myers said Carolina Beach makes more efforts than any other N.C. beach to be inclusive. But the main reason he feels so included on the beach is Ocean Cure.
“There’s not enough good stuff to say about Ocean Cure and Kevin and those guys,” Myers said. “They make me feel special and accepted, like less of a burden than I feel, especially on the beach.”