Like any surfer, Dylan Hronec’s mind is never far from the next wave, even if it takes him a little more effort to get there.
In the past four years, the sport has become an escape for the North Bellmore resident, who has cerebral palsy. He can’t walk, but he finds he can move his body in the waters off Long Beach.
“It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. I totally forget about my wheelchair and just the things that are a bit of a struggle,” said Hronec, 24. “You don’t really think about anything else. You just kind of lose yourself.”
Fellow surfer and friend Brian Adamkiewicz of Brooklyn wanted to showcase Hronec’s dedication to the sport to the wider surfing community. About a year and a half ago, he filmed a short documentary on Hronec, which was picked up by the New York Daily News website, surfing publications and ESPN’s “SportsCenter” after it was posted on YouTube and Vimeo last month.
The three-minute video was originally made for a documentary film class Adamkiewicz, 23, was taking at Brooklyn College.
“I really wanted to make a film that inspires people. I wanted an uplifting, positive film,” he said. “He’s a really incredible person. He can help people face their fears and look at life the way he does.”
Hronec said he grew up playing adaptive sports and always had an interest in surfing. He turned to the internet for inspiration.
“I had told my parents and brother that it was something I wanted to do,” he said.
From YouTube videos, Hronec learned it was possible for him to surf, even if he can’t walk. He decided to start attending surfing education events for people with disabilities, and through those met Cliff Skudin, co-owner of Long Beach’s Skudin Surf, who taught Hronec to surf, free of charge.
Adamkiewicz and Skudin said Hronec has become a familiar face in Long Beach. Hronec picked up the nickname Surfing Samurai for his fearless attitude and the way he wears his shoulder-length hair in a bun while in the water.
His Instagram account, full of pictures of his surfing adventures, has more than 5,500 followers.
Hronec said he likes surfing because it doesn’t require as many adaptations for him to participate. He has a beach wheelchair and a self-propelling surfboard with handles on top, and after having a friend help him into the water and onto his board, he surfs on his own by lying on the board. Another person can join him on the board to help him stand or give him more stability in rough water.
Skudin said his business emphasizes that people of all ages and abilities can surf. He said he still goes surfing with Hronec once or twice a week.
“People say, ‘Oh you guys are helping him so much,’ ” Skudin said. “But I’d really want to thank him. It helps me see what he can do and it motivates me throughout my life.”
Hronec said he only surfs in Long Beach close to Skudin Surf at the end of Long Beach Boulevard because the beach there is primarily used for lessons, and he has friends nearby if he wipes out.
Adamkiewicz’s film captures what it takes to get Hronec on his board, but also Hronec’s interest in surfing.
“Surfing just gives me freedom that I don’t have anywhere else,” Hronec says in the film.
It’s that freedom Hronec wishes others with disabilities could experience. He wants to eventually form a nonprofit to teach adapted surfing.
“I want to share what I feel when I’m in the water with as many people I can,” he said. “I know how much it’s done for me.”