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A special day of surfing

Former Angel Rex Hudler and friends team up for inaugural event that featured those with Down syndrome catching waves.

February 06, 2012|By Steve Virgen

Scott McCall is no stranger to the water.

The 30-year-old grew up in Huntington Beach. He learned to swim at Pacific Sands Cabana Club with his sisters, Jayme and Megan. But McCall always wanted to surf.

He received some special lessons at the Surf's Up for Down Syndrome event on Friday. McCall was one of several potential surfers with Down syndrome learning from pros and experts near the Huntington Beach Pier.

Rex Hudler's Team Up for Down Syndrome, in conjunction with the International Surfing Museum, put on the inaugural event, which also featured live and silent auctions and a banquet at Sandy's Beach Grill.

The sun glistening off the waves wasn't the only radiant scene Friday afternoon. There were smiles galore and amazed laughter, as adults and adolescents with special needs rode some waves.

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McCall's father, John, said his son had tried surfing before, but had not been able to stand up. McCall stood up for a bit and caught some waves Friday, his teacher, Danny Nichols, said.

"Scott killed it," Nichols said. "He did a great job. We paddled into a few waves. He stood up and had good balance. Out of eight or nine waves, he stood on five of them."

Nichols, a former pro who lives in Huntington Beach and owns a silk-screen T-shirt business, found out about the event from Brett Barnes, the owner of Duke's restaurant.

Nichols said he was honored to help out and enjoyed working with people with Down syndrome.

John McCall said he was excited for his son.

"I want to get him on the board so we can surf together," he said.

Hudler, a former Major League Baseball player, called the surfing portion of the event the highlight of the day.

Hudler and his wife, Jennifer, have four children. Their 15-year-old, Cade, was born with Down syndrome.

They watched Cade learn and try to surf with all his friends.

"I've been emotional the whole day to see the fun they had out here," Hudler said, standing by the shore. "The typical kids showing them and how much fun they were having was also great. And to see that, given a chance, kids with Down syndrome can do anything. That's why I call it Up syndrome. It's not Down syndrome."

Hudler said he took on the Up-syndrome mentality after he went through "chromosome counseling," a program for families that have a baby with Down syndrome.

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