PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An Oregon coast business is working to make the ocean accessible to more people by offering special equipment and experiences to get them out on the beach and into the water. 

Bahama Boards opened in Coos Bay three years ago and the owner Greg Allen opened a second location in Cannon Beach a year later. 

Allen said the stores both started as typical surf shops where he sold and rented gear to customers, but that all changed when a customer named Larry, who was a double amputee, entered the store wanting to surf. 

“Larry actually spurred that, that whole adaptive [surf] thing and started a whole new business,” Allen explained. 

Photo of an adaptive surf lesson – photo courtesy Greg Allen and Adaptive Surf

Bahama Boards now offers what it calls adaptive surfing experiences for free for people who have disabilities. The experiences, or lessons, are available any day of the week throughout the year and Bahama Boards can make either one or two instructors available for the lesson, based on the size of the group. They offer beginner and advanced lessons. 

Allen said the reaction to the program has been amazing so far and they’ve received a lot of donations to keep it going and make sure it remains a free service. 

“It’s been well-received and we’re really happy with it,” he said. 

Allen’s dedication to helping make the beach more accessible didn’t go unnoticed. Cannon Beach City Manager Bruce St. Denis asked if his shop would be interested in overseeing the city’s beach wheelchair project. 

Allen decided it would make a great addition to Bahama Boards’ services and agreed. Now, his shop has two beach wheelchairs anyone can check out at any time for free, they just need to be reserved in advance. 

The chairs have big, balloon-like wheels that make it easier to cruise across the sand and prevent them from sinking into the sand. They require someone to walk behind them and push them. 

Two beach wheelchairs are available to borrow in Cannon Beach at Bahama Boards. Photo courtesy Greg Allen

In addition to overseeing the adaptive surf experiences and the beach wheelchairs, Allen said he’s also working with local surfboard manufacturers to create specialized boards for adaptive surfing. He said the designs will vary depending on the disability they’re meant to accommodate. 

“It’s been so well received that we find that once we have people out there, the boards that we currently have are a little cumbersome. So, we’re trying to create a board that makes it easier for them and safer too,” he said. 

He said they’re currently in the research and development stage, but are considering features like adding foam to the board or concaving the board in a way that makes it more comfortable and allows people to be strapped in better. 

Allen and his partners who direct the Adaptive Surf program are also looking at creating a training program on the Oregon coast for paralympic athletes. He couldn’t share many details with KOIN 6 News about this but said it’s looking very promising. 

In order to keep these programs running and to ensure they remain free for people, Allen is always accepting donations. He said he’s in the process of creating a nonprofit, but in the meantime, anyone interested in donating to the Adaptive Surf program can contact him by calling or emailing Bahama Boards

The city of Cannon Beach said anyone interested in making a donation to fund additional beach wheelchairs may contact the Haystack Rock Awareness Program at (503) 436-8060 or the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce at (503) 436-2623.