COCOA BEACH, Florida.“It’s a big day in Cocoa Beach.
As a coach, Ashley Nolan and the Brevard team prepare for the Special Olympics State Surfing Championships.
“Sophia, Potato Chip, let’s warm up,” said one of the Brevard team coaches.
Ashley’s knowledge of the sport is clear, but it’s her passion for training that shines.
“Surfing is for everyone and being a part of introducing the sport to anyone who wants to be a part of it is so rewarding,” said Ashley Nolan, Team Brevard’s head surf coach.
When asked to coach Special Olympics surfing, she didn’t hesitate.
“At first I just saw it as an opportunity to be a better coach and coach more people and keep busy, then after the first practice I realized how special it was, I realized it was something I had to be a part of and not just something I want,” coach Nolan said.
For the past five years, Ashley has been there for athletes like Candace Whiting.
“Dancing is an escape for me. It keeps me in my happy place,” said Candace Whiting, a Team Brevard surfer.
Candace’s other happy place is the ocean.
When Candace was asked if she was ready, she replied, “I’m definitely ready. I’ve been ready since this morning.
She is always ready to show off her talents while combining her two loves, surfing and dancing.
“It’s amazing because I feel free there. Like I don’t have to think about anything,” Whiting said.
This is exactly the feeling Coach Ashley wants all of her athletes to have.
“They leave here feeling elated. Just feeling happy, confident and strong. A day in the ocean is better than anyone else,” said coach Nolan.
As Ashley cheers from the shore, she realizes that it’s not just the athletes who leave happy.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling every Saturday after practice. Once you’ve worked with these athletes and once you’ve been in the water and seen their smiles, you can’t live without them. It’s kind of addicting,” coach Nolan said.