Local woman with debilitating conditions finds healing, empowerment through special surfing class in Huntington Beach

Thursday, August 15, 2019
Woman with debilitating conditions finds healing, empowerment in O.C. surf class
April Sanchez battles Lupus, fibromyalgia and Hashimoto's disease. A special surfing class in Huntington Beach is allowing her to find healing and empowerment in the water.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Surfing is difficult enough for the able bodied, but the spirituality and healing which can come from catching a wave doesn't have to be out of reach.

In Huntington Beach, there is an ultimate surfer offering this pain relief for everyone - with his help. One of the surfers who knows of his special aid, is April Sanchez.

She says, "It's the biggest natural high that I've ever experienced in my life. You just can't stop laughing and feeling amazing. You don't want to stop."

It's healing which she can only find in the water - along with Rocky McKinnon's help and the unique program he started.

As we watch Rocky and April catch a wave , it's amazing to find out Sanchez battles Lupus, fibromyalgia and Hashimoto's disease. She's often left weak, so McKinnon works as her strength in the water. He does the paddling and power work, yet they both catch the wave. He helps her to balance and stand on the board as he remains the rock holding her up.

Sanchez says, "It's amazing, it's the best feeling I could every explain to be able to finally be able to make it out there. And Rocky is what makes that possible."

Catching the stoke, as it's called, is addictive and she caught the bug with McKinnon by her side. She showed us what McKinnon can do now that he offers that type of service to anyone who might be like April and face debilitating issues which prevent them from even thinking about surfing or getting in the water.

Sanchez recalled her first time catching that wave on a board: "Realizing that it's me, actually me, doing that, I cried the whole way back to him. It was something I never dreamed I would be able to accomplish."

McKinnon makes it simple, "It's so important for our communities that offer surf lessons or any other type of activities to be all inclusive. With McKinnon Surf and Sup lessons that's what we represent."

The McKinnon Adaptive Surfing program is in Surf City on the north side of Huntington Beach Pier by Tower 4. McKinnon is the chief instructor and owner, all while he also operates a surfboard business.


Sanchez says it's because of his beautiful heart - she gets to become a part of the water and waves which heals her.

Dripping with salty ocean water, she's beaming. "Obviously my face has changed a lot since I got out!"