Team Quinn’s journey is an awe-inspiring example of how one family’s story can impact so many. It all started when the Waitley family developed ways to give their daughter Quinn, who was born with cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic, the opportunity to surf.
“For most people with disabilities, surfing has never been considered on the horizon of possibilities. Simply going to the beach can be seen as an extremely daunting task for some,” the organization explains. Today, Quinn - whose sister is Vuori ACTV Club Collaborator Mckenna Waitley, is on the US Adaptive Surf team and Team Quinn hosts multiple adaptive events every year—an opportunity for the surfing community and disabled population to come together. “We have seen profound connections and life-changing moments between our volunteer surfers and our disabled surfers,” says the organization. Expanding everyone’s understanding of what’s possible—that’s the Team Quinn mission.
Can you tell us a bit about Team Quinn and its mission?
Team Quinn was formed for the purpose of serving people with disabilities and their families. Inspired by our sister, Quinn Waitley and her passion and zest for experiencing life to the fullest, our team aims to provide adaptations, assistance, and support that allow people within the disabled community to access the beach, ocean, and the sport of surfing. It is our goal to integrate and connect people in the community through local events and service opportunities. We hold multiple adaptive surf events each year, sponsor adaptive athletes and support other community events. We have seen firsthand the significant and positive impact that surfing has on quality of life, specifically for individuals with disabilities or in disabling circumstances.
How long has Team Quinn been serving people with disabilities?
We have been serving the disabled community for over 20 years, when Quinn first became involved with adaptive sports. We officially formed our non-profit in 2013.
What services or programs does Team Quinn offer for these people and their families?
Currently, we hold several adaptive surf events each year, where we provide accessibility to the beach and water safety. We offer hands-on assistance so that families can relax and enjoy the beach. We also provide assisted yoga and stretching during our events.
What challenges do people with disabilities face, and how does Team Quinn help address these challenges?
There are many challenges that people with disabilities face and it is different for everyone. We serve people of all ages and disabilities, and that can mean anything from a physical disability to an intellectual disability. For most people with disabilities, surfing has never been considered on the horizon of possibilities. Simply going to the beach can be seen as an extremely daunting task for some. By providing access to the beach and the opportunity to surf we begin to create a shift in perspective as to what one can accomplish, experience and overcome. We hope to inspire a rippling effect that changes overall outlook on life and what is possible.
It can also be very challenging for people with disabilities to engage and connect with the community. There are many misconceptions about people who live with a disability and what they are capable of. We hope to create a space where we can break down misperceptions, increase disability awareness and remind everyone that even though we are different, we are all people first and deserve respect and kindness and accessibility.
There are a lot of people who have simply never met someone with a disability. We hope our events allow people to learn more about each other and create genuine and meaningful connections that they otherwise would not have the opportunity to do.
We hope to show people that not one person’s experience with disability is the same as another. Everyone’s abilities are different and we are there to understand and serve people in an individualistic way.
What are some success stories or inspiring moments that Team Quinn has experienced while working with people with disabilities?
There are literally so many! We had the opportunity to take out a 17-year-old boy who had recently been in a snowboarding accident a year before. He broke his back and was left paralyzed from chest down. He was visiting from Australia with his brother and we invited him to one of our events. It was his first time surfing post-injury and we were able to teach his brother how to take him out in the water and help him catch waves. Having been a surfer before, he was instantly reminded of the pure joy of catching a wave. It was an amazing day seeing the two of them back in the water together. We still keep in touch and get to see them surfing and doing all sorts of crazy things together.
Another story that stands out began with a random message we received from a women telling us about her amazing friend. She had been living with a rare disease and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her friends planned a spontaneous road trip from the Midwest to the West Coast, and when they pulled up in their red Corvette she was absolutely shocked. She was so excited to get in the water and we had the most joyous time catching waves and laughing with her friends. She passed away shortly after, and we feel so honored to have met her and shared such a beautiful day with her. We feel truly blessed to do what we do, and every event is filled with similar stories and moments that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It’s a day where you can forget about the hard things and celebrate, laugh and love one another to the fullest.
How can individuals or communities get involved and support Team Quinn's mission?
There are many ways to get involved with our organization. Donations and sponsorships keep us afloat! All donations are used towards current and future programs, events and equipment. Sponsorships are a great way for businesses or organizations to get involved as well. You can sponsor an entire event or an adaptive athlete in upcoming professional competitions. With more donations and sponsorships we can hold more events and serve more people. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and give back. There is always something to do during our adaptive surf days and I promise you will have a smile on your face the entire time! For more information, please visit our instagram (@teamquinnsuf) or website (www.teamquinnsurf.org) for upcoming events and how to get involved.
What is the biggest challenge Team Quinn is currently facing?
Our biggest challenge right now is growth. We are eager to grow our organization and expand and add to our programs, but need the financial support to do so. We are looking for larger and more consistent sponsors and donors to help maintain our ongoing events.
How does Team Quinn collaborate with other groups or agencies to better serve the people and families you work with?
We have had several other groups and agencies join us for our events. Oftentimes they will sponsor the event and provide all volunteers throughout the day. It is a great way for an organization to give back and to also be involved. We are very interested in working with other local agencies who can help us provide access to other sports like swimming, sailing, and snowboarding. We have had several participants express interest in trying some other sports and we are very interested in providing access to other adaptive sports.
What is your vision for the future of Team Quinn and the people it serves?
As mentioned, we are very interested in adding new programs such as swimming and sailing during the summer and fall. And we would love to provide some adaptive snowboarding and skiing in the winter time. This would provide an amazing opportunity for some to experience the snow for the very first time.
We are also interested in creating a mentorship program for individuals of all ages, disabilities and stages of life to receive emotional support. We hope to create a community that is continuously growing and provides a loving home base that people can lean on when they need.
What is one message you would like to share with the public about the importance of supporting people with disabilities?
We all face challenges in life and for some they are in the form of a disability. People who experience disability are really no different than me and you. We are simply here to create access and assist people with accomplishing their goal of experiencing surfing and share each other’s company in a meaningful way. Helping one another is a fundamental part of life that makes us better people and a better community. Getting to know someone with a disability and listening to their unique story and experience deepens our understanding and perspective on life.