HOW easy is it on a hot day to go for a swim or lie on a surfboard? Not very, if you happen to have a physical disability.
On Saturday 18 January, close to 300 people at Pt Leo Beach were given an insight into each other’s lives when Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula held its first event for 2014.
More than 230 volunteers made it possible for 41 disabled surfers to know the feeling of being on a board pushed along by the natural energy of a wave.
The simple joy of being hit by a wave can be fraught with danger for someone who does not have full control or use of their body.
But with volunteers to help you onto a board and then lining up to provide a human safety net, accessing this simple pleasure becomes a reality.
As well as organising volunteers, carers and their charges, the DSA’s peninsula branch has come up with innovative solutions to make it easier for the disabled to get to the beach and try surfing.
Over winter the branch trialled a bead-filled “seat” that allows a disabled surfer to sit up and enjoy the view as they surf toward the shore.
A harness has also been developed to make it easier to pull special wide-tyred wheelchairs along the beach and through the sand dunes.
“The aquaducks developed by the branch in consultation with all DSA branches throughout Australia performed above expectation and provided the surfers with a safer experience,” peninsula president Stewart Lockie said.
The new harness had made beach transfers “much easier and safer”.
“Heaps of people volunteered both surfers and non-surfers and all their contributions were invaluable,” branch treasurer John Bowers said.
“As well as the sea, there is a really innovative approach to the problems that the terrain sets us and, fortunately, we have a committee that is keen to solve problems. There’s also a network of talented people we are able to access.
“The new harnesses reduced the physical strain of moving wheelchairs through the sand.”
The next DSA surfing event at Pt Leo is on Saturday 15 March with a free barbecue for participants and volunteers. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.disabledsurfers.org