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Santa Rosa native Jeff Andrews wins in first surfing competition

Results are in from Duke’s OceanFest, an international surfing and ocean-sports competition in Waikiki. Among the winners: Santa Rosa native Jeff Andrews.

He is indeed the same tall, athletic Jeff Andrews who graduated from Montgomery High in 2006 and, in the winter of ’14, lost the use of his legs and much of the use of his arms to a snowboarding crash near Truckee, where he now lives.

Riding belly-down on an adaptive surf board and helped to get into position for a wave, Jeff won his division in OceanFest’s assisted-surfing competition.

“I just started surfing about six months ago,” he said by phone. “Being out in the water is great for my body. Not having to deal with gravity and having that freedom is amazing.”

“A wave is the same sensation as snowboarding in powder.”

At OceanFest, Jeff was also struck by the sight of other athletes with disabilities beaming at the opportunity to be in the water and to compete.

“Really,” he said, “the smile on everyone’s face was just incredible.”

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NOW 28, Jeff played football and basketball as a Montgomery Viking. Not long after high school, he moved to Tahoe, took a groundskeeping job at a golf course and, when not at work, played golf the warm half of the year and snowboarded the cold.

After work on March 15, 2014, he headed to Sugar Bowl with his boots and board and helmet. He took a jump in the terrain park and flew too far, crashing down well beyond the soft landing zone.

The impact broke Jeff’s spine at the base of his neck and made him quadriplegic. But these past 2½ years, he has trained hard in rehabilitative therapy, become strong and reclaimed a good degree of the use of the arms that at first he couldn’t lift at all.

Grateful to many, he heaps thanks on the nonprofit High Fives Foundation of Truckee, which works to prevent mountain-sports injuries and assists the recovery of athletes who’ve been badly hurt. As part of Jeff’s therapy, High Fives flew him this past spring to Maui for personal training with physical therapist and pilates instructor Alejandra Monslave.

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JEFF TREASURES the day he was at the beach and met Hobart Dickinson.

Jeff recalls, “He asked if I wanted to go surfing. I said ‘Sure, why not?’?”

Dickinson had built an adaptive board and taught a man who was quadriplegic to surf. Jeff took to surfing with such determination and joy that he and Dickinson, his mentor and in-water assistant, came to agree that he was ready to compete.

Duke’s OceanFest, which is a tribute to Olympic swimmer and pioneer surfer Duke Kahanamoku, this year drew able-bodied and disabled surfers, swimmers, paddlers and other ocean-sport athletes from around the world.

Jeff was thrilled simply to be there. It was so exciting, he said, “just seeing people with different injuries getting in and out of the water.”

Now back in Truckee, where he drives a car and plays quad rugby, the frequent visitor to Santa Rosa looks forward to returning to Hawaii next January and February for more seaside therapeutic training.

And more surfing? Only as much as humanely possible.

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