AMI This Week's Molly Burke packed her suitcase for surfing camp to prove Matthew from Tinder wrong.
“Nobody gets to decide what my capabilities are based on a disability that they know nothing about,” Molly said in the first of three AMI digital exclusive interviews about her surfing camp trip. "Nobody decides what I am capable of."
I generally consider myself a pretty confident and independent person, but when it came to the moment of saying goodbye to my mom and heading off to Simi Valley, California, I was so nervous I nearly broke down in tears.
I felt so relieved when I arrived and someone was there to pick me up and bring Gallop and I to meet the rest of the crew. I must say, I felt instantly at home when I met the XMO Games staff and my fellow blind athletes.
So far I have enjoyed every moment, the water park, our nearly eight-mile hike and getting to know everyone better along the way. Soon I’ll be water skiing, something I haven’t done in YEARS, as well as wake boarding for the first time, tubing and DRIVING a jet ski! Of course I am so excited, but there is nothing I am more excited for then the day we take our surfing lessons.
I have my stylish Billabong wetsuit ready to go and I can’t wait to teach Matthew from Tinder a lesson!
Riding the Waves of Freedom
I’ve arrived home from one of the most exhausting and busy, but inspiring and memorable weeks of my life. I haven’t been home long but I already miss the Cali lifestyle, palm trees and people.
I will never forget the feeling of complete and total freedom I had while driving the jet ski 46 miles per hour. True and total freedom is something that’s hard to find as a blind person. You are always tied to a cane, dog or person.
On that jet ski, wind blowing through my hair, I just imagined myself driving a car, top down, on the highway. Having that experience, and so many others from this past week, brought tears to my eyes.
You can’t even begin to imagine the excitement I felt when it was time... the big day had come, time to learn to surf! It was my moment, the reason I had gone to XMO in the first place. My fantastic Billabong wetsuit went on and I was ready to attempt this sport that, had Matthew from Tinder not told me I could or would never do, I would have never been interested in.
I had incredible instructors who supported me and made me feel safe and at ease. They showed me all the motions on land and it was time to take it to the water! I won’t lie, I swallowed A LOT of salt water, was knocked off my board many times and gained A LOT of respect for pro surfers. I wasn’t having an easy time but I was NOT willing to give up.
I was the last XMO athlete out in the waters and I wasn’t willing to go in until I got one good ride on a wave done. I had a few moments when I’d get up and that board and fall quickly back into the water, but eventually I had that one right wave and that one incredible moment of standing on that surf board, riding a wave into shore.
Never Judge Others
As soon as I was done, I was done. I only needed that one wave to prove to myself that no one, especially Matthew from Tinder, gets to decide what my limitations are. I might not be able to see, but that doesn’t give ANYONE the right to tell me what I can and cannot do in or with my life.
When Matthew first told me he wouldn’t be able to date me due to my disability and the fact that my blindness means I wouldn’t be able to surf, I was hurt. It stung that some random person, who did not take the time to understand my disability, would judge me so quickly and discount me or neglect to see how capable I am or the potential I have.
Instead of letting that negative energy pull me down I chose to let it push me forward. I took his negativity and let it fuel my fire and propel me forward in life. I took that negative energy and turned it into something positive, spending a week in Southern California with amazing people I can now call family, and learning a new skill.
If you take anything away from this, I hope it’s that you should never judge others, and that if you are being judged or pulled down by others, let it inspire you, not break you.