YORK – Dana Cummings said Hawaiians refer to surfing as the sport of kings.
He thinks he knows what they mean; he feels like king of the world when he is on his board — with one leg and one prosthetic leg.
“If I can do this, anyone can,” he said.
Thursday morning on Long Sands Beach, Cummings held the first session of a two-day clinic to teach surfing to disabled participants as part of AmpSurf, a nonprofit organization he co-founded after a life-changing accident. About a dozen people showed up to give surfing a try.
The Maine native graduated from Livermore Falls High School in 1988. He served in the first Gulf War and returned safely, he said. A car accident in 2002 cost him his left leg.
But that didn’t stop him. He got a prosthetic leg and learned to surf — something he didn’t do before his accident. He also competed in his first half ironman triathlon, traveled to various countries and founded AmpSurf with several of his friends in 2003.
Based in Pismo Beach, Calif., AmpSurf is dedicated to helping disabled veterans, children and adults through adaptive surfing and other fun outdoor activities.
AmpSurf has offered clinics on the coast of California for several years. This is the first summer the organization has sponsored activities on the East Coast. Cummings expects as many as 500 people to participate in AmpSurf events this year.
Six-year-old Shaun McLaughlin of Natick Mass., was very happy that Cummings brought his lessons east. Born with amniotic band syndrome, McLaughlin has no right foot and has used a prosthetic since before he could walk.
As he perched on one of AmpSurf’s surfboards on the sand Thursday, he said he likes soccer, baseball, basketball and playing with his friends.
Now, he loves surfing.
McLaughlin smiled broadly as he stood on his board and rode the waves into shore with help from trained AmpSurf instructors and volunteers. Even when he fell, he grinned.
“You go, like, very high,” he said.
Nine instructors and two staff members came from California to host the East Coast clinics, which are free and open to people of any age.
Brian Foss, 57, of Gilford, N.H., who was diagnosed with polio in 1955, the year the vaccine came out, came to surf for the first time. Foss, whose left leg is half the size of his right leg, said he enjoyed getting to try surfing.
Among the instructors was Nathan Smids, 27, of Morro Bay, Calif., who first had contact with AmpSurf as a participant in a clinic. He fell in love with surfing and went through the training to become an instructor.
Smids lost part of his right leg after a snowboarding accident in Canada, where he was born. Doctors had to amputate part of the leg about seven years ago because of an infection that set in from metal that was used to repair a broken bone.
Like Cummings, Smids hasn’t really slowed down. He travels and is now an active surfer. He will go to Hawaii soon to compete in a well-known surfing competition.
As he stood on the beach in York during a pause in the instruction, he offered a simple statement for how he has approached life since his accident: “It makes you not waste time.”
Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at: