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by Rebecca Parsons April 17, 2021 3 min read

Sarah Shea and Hannah Hall’s is a story of hard work, determination, and friendship. Born and raised in Colorado, the two met in third grade and after learning that Hannah has Down syndrome, the pair became fast friends. Through a shared love of sports and a mission to show that everyone is capable of achieving his or her goals, their friendship deepened. Since, they have traveled together, competed in Special Olympics, and most recently, surfed together on a TANDM Surf Bodyboard. Here, Sarah shares the background of hers and Hannah’s friendship, their experience surfing together for the first time, and why TANDM Surf is the perfect resource for kids with special abilities. 

When did you and Hannah first meet?

We met in third grade—our desks were placed next to each other and we immediately hit it off. We started playing basketball after school together with a bunch of the other kids with special needs and it became this unified team of kids with all abilities. Throughout the years our friendship has developed and we got invited to each others birthday parties, had play dates, went on weekend trips with our families, she came to visit me in college, and now we have surfing trips in California.

You guys did Special Olympics together?

Yes! We were very big in Special Olympics. Hannah competed in basketball, track, swimming, soccer, flag football, and dance. I was a peer coach for all of those. Special Olympics follows an inclusion model where we want teams of people with and without disabilities playing together and being teammates—it provides kids with special needs the same opportunity to play a sport with friends.

What are some challenges people with Down syndrome face, especially in regards to athletics?

I think when people see someone with Down syndrome they are doubted and not known for their full potential. Something that’s really special about Hannah is that she’s aware of her disability and knows that she was born with an extra 21stchromosome, which makes Down syndrome. She loves to show people how capable she is; she’s so determined.

You work as a special education teacher. What inspired you to do that?

Hannah! And then our other friend, Megan. I think just being friends with them gave me purpose and a clear vision of what I want to do and that’s to advocate for people like them that have different abilities.

How is TANDM Surf a good resource for people with disabilities?

My first thought when I saw the board was how awesome it is to get people with special needs out there. This board fills in the gaps of what we need to get kids with special needs out in the water. It’s hard to have someone on his or her own board that may have never been out in the water before or can’t swim very well. Tandem Boogie’s two-person capability opens up more opportunities that kids with disabilities and other people wouldn’t have had before.

How was Hannah feeling before surfing for the first time?

You would never know, but the day before surfing I took her out in the water and she was really nervous.I told her that there were going to be some cameras there and that they were going to videotape her because they wanted to show that people with disabilities or people with Down syndrome can do amazing thing. All kids might be scared to do something that they’ve never done or get in the water with big waves but Hannah gets to be a role model and inspiration and I think that was what really excited her. She really enjoys showing other people what she can do. 

How did surfing go?

It was really fun. We put her up in a wetsuit and put on a life jacket and a rashguard and went out there. Right when we paddled out, she got smashed by a wave and I was worried that she wouldn’t want to keep going. But she was excited to keep going and we took a couple of waves and then we switched boards and went back out again. She kept saying, “That’s amazing, man!”

 

Anything else?

Hannah wants to show people what she can do and how amazing she is. Hannah is a go-getter—she is determined and she loves every sport known to man. Sports are her thing and surfing wasn’t on the list until TANDM Surf. It was super cool that she was able to add surfing to her list of all the sports she does. Hannah is determined and wants to show people what she’s capable of but also loves to inspire younger kids with different abilities.

Click here to watch a video of Sarah & Hannah surfing!



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