Long Island surfing program giving paralyzed patients second chance at independence

LIDO BEACH, Long Island (WABC) -- It has been thirty years since Eddy Lopez went surfing. On Monday, he, along with dozens of other people who use wheelchairs did just that.

"So liberating, you know? It gives you such a freedom that you don't expect. Little things that you miss in life," says Lopez.

The program at Lido Beach is made possible by two groups - 'Wheels 2 Water' and 'Empower Spinal Cord Injury' in partnership with Stony Brook University and its students.

"I forget about the injury when I'm in there. I'm free from the chair," adds Victor Pena.

"I still tear up every time I see the kids come in for the first time, smiling, and then they don't want to get out of the water," says Anthony Testaverde of 'Wheels 2 Water'.

Including 20-year-old Alex Obert-Thorn, so Eyewitness News spoke to his mom.

"He does this thing where he puts his arms out while he's on the board. They've termed it the 'iron eagle', because he's flying through the world. He flies through the ocean," Patty Obert-Thorn says.

People come in from all over the United States to participate in the program. Liz Remillard of 'Empower Spinal Cord Injury' says it gives their participants a 'chance to live again'.

"This actually shows them they do have skills they thought they may have lost once they had their injury," adds Mary Squillace of Stony Brook University.

Participants say they come out of the water believing they can do anything.
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