Andrew Larocca was surrounded by family and friends while strapped to a surfboard in New Smyrna Beach. A wave was bearing down on him and everyone was about to let go.
“My wife was a little bit nervous about it,” said Larocca’s dad, Dave Truman.
The wave swept under Larocca’s board and carried him into the outstretched arms of people waiting on the beach.
The paralyzed veteran never left his belly during the ride.
“I mean just to see him just doing it and all the other guys, you’re on top of the world,” said Truman. “Beautiful.”
Larocca, 32, served in the Army and spent time in Korea while in service. He was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2010 that left him with a traumatic brain injury and wheelchair-bound.
Surfing was one of the last activities his family thought they’d see him doing.
“To see him get back involved with all of us in his life and not just be part of a chair,” said Truman. “We’re getting there.”
Larocca’s younger brother, Cody Truman, scooped some juice out of a cup and fed it to Andrew. The day after watching him ride the waves, Cody still couldn’t believe how great it was to see.
“It was not emotional but very proud,” he said.
The ride on the board was made possible by the Wounded Warrior Project and Oceans of Hope. The WWP has adaptive sports programs set up for veterans to help them reintegrate back to as much normalcy as possible after traumatic injuries.
“Just to see the big smile on his face and just being out there, I think when you get that sense of accomplishment, I can do this, not focusing on what you can’t do,” said Bill Hannigan, an Adaptive Sports Specialist at WWP. “That’s what you saw out there. This is what I can still do.”
Hannigan watched from the beach as Larocca glided in to the shore. A group of people shouted praises to Larocca.
It was a Father’s Day to remember for Dave.
“Anything’s possible,” he said.