COCOA BEACH, Fla. — As coach Ashley Nolan and Team Brevard prepared for the Special Olympics State Surf Championships, it was a big day in Cocoa Beach.
What You Need To Know
- Ashley Nolan is the head surf coach Team Brevard
- She has been coaching Special Olympics athletes for the past five years
- The team recently participated in the Special Olympics State Surf Championships
“Sophia, Potato Chip, let’s go warm up,” said one of the Team Brevard coaches.
Ashley’s knowledge of the sport is clear but it’s her passion for coaching that shines bright.
“Surfing is for everyone, and being a part of introducing this sport to anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of it is so gratifying,” said Ashley, who is the head surf coach for Team Brevard.
When she was asked to coach Special Olympics surfing she says she didn’t hesitate.
“At first I just saw it as an opportunity to be a better coach and coach more people and stay busy," she said. "Then, after the first practice, I realized how special it was. I realized this was something I need to be a part of, not just something I want to."
For the last five years, Ashley has been there for athletes like Candace Whiting.
“Dancing is an escape for me — it keeps me in my happy place,” said Candace, a surfer for Team Brevard.
Candace’s other happy place is the ocean.
When Candace was asked if she was ready she said, “I’m definitely ready — I’ve been ready since this morning.”
She is always ready to go show off her skills while combining her two loves, surfing and dancing.
“It feels incredible, because I feel free out there," she said. "Like I don’t have to think about anything."
That's the exact feeling coach Ashley wants all of her athletes to have.
“They leave here just feeling stoked — just feeling happy, feeling confident and strong," she said. "A day in the ocean is better than anything else."
As Ashley cheers from the shoreline she said she realizes it’s not just the athletes who are leaving happy.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling every single Saturday after practice," she said. "Once you’ve worked with these athletes and once you’ve been in the water and seen their smiles you can’t live without it. It’s kind of addicting."