THE smile on Laura Kokavec's face lit up Maroochydore Beach yesterday morning as she rode her board the final few metres into shore.
Her father Wally was smiling almost as much as he watched her enjoy her first surfing lesson.
But it was no ordinary lesson.
Laura was one of about 20 disabled people taking lessons from members of the Sunshine Coast Disabled Surfers Association.
"Once she gets out in the ocean, she just comes alive," Mr Kokavec said as Laura caught a small wave into the beach.
"She loves the beach so much. It helps with her development.
"I love the spirit, there's just such warmth about the people here. It's just great to see so much support for the most vulnerable, disabled children.
"That's what it's all about, these children having the same opportunity that normal people do."
Volunteer Pat Toohey, director of students at Siena Catholic College, was so impressed with the association's work he got pupils from the college involved.
"It's just a transformation really, to see the joy on these peoples' faces, being able to get in the water and have a dig," he said. "It changes your life, as well as theirs."
The association has been operating on the Coast for seven years and president Tim Byrne said its success was a testament to the community that supported it.
"We've got about 60-80 volunteers down here today," he said.
"We rely a lot on the local board riders. We've got some great boardriding communities on the Coast that come along and help."
Mr Byrne said he got as much out of the lessons as the participants.
"Initially, it put a lot of things in perspective for me," he said.
"There's a lot of therapeutic benefits from being in the ocean. A lot of us take it for granted, but these guys probably need it just as much as everyone else, if not more.
"I guess you don't take things for granted, you realise how lucky you've got it."
It was Laura Kokavec's first encounter with the program, but her father said it would not be her last.
"We'll be coming back for each one of these. It's a real family thing."
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