CARLSBAD — Aurora Ortiz, president and volunteer coordinator of the San Diego Blind Community Center, looks forward to the event all year.
“It’s such a rush,” Ortiz said. “It feels like complete freedom out there.”
Ortiz, along with others, will gather Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Ponto Beach for the 17th annual surf clinic for blind and sight-impaired individuals. Around 100 surfers from the Swami’s Surfing Association and San Diego Surf Academy will give lessons to an estimated 50 participants.
During the lessons, three or four instructors assist each participant with balancing on a surfboard, managing approaching waves, standing up and riding to shore.
Legally blind, Ortiz said she was hesitant when she took part in the first surf clinic 16 years ago. Now a veteran of the event, she’s more comfortable in the water, especially with the instructors’ guidance.
“There’s so much happening in the surf zone — just overwhelming in the beginning,” Ortiz said. “I learned to place my trust in the instructors. They’re right there if something happens.”
Ortiz explained blind and sight-impaired individuals rarely have the chance to experience the ocean, something others might take for granted. And the event lifts spirits.
“People might not realize those in the blind community can be very lonely,” Ortiz said. “Community events like this bring people together. That’s why we appreciate all the support we receive.”
Amongst all the positivity, challenges still exist for the blind center. Providing transportation for blind individuals to and from events is difficult. The community center once had two buses at its disposal, but now only has one due to funding challenges.
“I hate to say it, but we’re limited in how many people we can take to events,” Ortiz said.
The blind center is working toward acquiring another bus, but for now Ortiz is looking forward to an event that brings joy to so many people.
The Encinitas Lions Club organizes the event every year. According to Bob Mangini, the president of the club, blind individuals from throughout San Diego and the state will attend the event.
“People are really passionate about this event, distance doesn’t seem to matter,” Mangini said.
Mangini noted the event has grown in popularity over the years.
“Being visually impaired doesn’t have to stop you from experiencing a wonderful sport like surfing,” Mangini said. “We’re happy to be a part of this event every year.”