Two thieves stole three custom surfboards from a paralyzed surf instructor on Monday night in Cardiff, California.
Randy Abbott, who runs a nonprofit organization called The View From 42 and gives surfing lessons to children with physical disabilities, said he caught the thieves in the act.
“I was right there in my wheelchair,” Abbott told ABC News 10. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m paralyzed. Don’t steal my surfboards!’ And then they came and attacked me.”
Abbott was thrown to the pavement and sustained cuts on his elbows and knees.
“The other one came from behind me and threw me out of my wheelchair, then took my wheelchair and kicked it down the parking lot,” Abbott told Fox 5 San Diego.
Immediately after the incident, Abbott began receiving messages of support and outrage at the theft on Facebook and Instagram. Rob Machado, a popular retired professional surfer, posted a photo of the stolen boards on Instagram. A huge outpouring of kindness followed.
“When I heard what happened to him this morning, my first thought was, ‘What can I do to make this right?'” Abbott’s friend Christopher Tomlin told ABC. “I have over 30 boards in my house, and I asked which ones he wanted. He told me, and I brought them down for him. With everything he does for people, we need to get him back out on the water.”
Although two of the three stolen custom surfboards were recovered, they were broken in half. Tomlin brought Abbott three of his own boards, and said two were being custom-made for him.
“There’s literally been 500 text messages from people I don’t even know, saying, ‘Don’t worry about your surfboards. We’re going to get you new ones,'” Abbott said in the report.
Abbott’s nonprofit organization, The View From 42, trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for people with disabilities in addition to their work teaching disabled children to surf.
“I’ll start crying if I talk too much about the guy,” surfboard shaper Todd McFarland told Fox. “He’s the best guy I’ve ever met.”
A GoFundMe campaign called “Replace Randy’s Surfboards” has raised $2,726 as of July 24, far surpassing the $1,200 goal. Anyone interested in supporting the fundraising effort can do so using the campaign website.