IT’S now common at bayside beaches to see someone standing on a surfboard with a long, single-bladed paddle.
The paddlers seem to effortlessly glide past, often silhouetted against a setting sun and sometimes with a dog on board.
Stand up paddleboards (SUPs) provide an enjoyable exercise but, until now, have really been only available to the able bodied.
Matt Drysdale, a committee member of the Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula branch since 2011, decided the SUP experience should be available to everyone.
He explained his desire to make a SUP suitable for the disabled to members of SOLVE, a group of mainly retired “experts” who enjoy the challenge of designing aids for the disabled that are not commercially available.
After a few misses, SOLVE came up with a hit which meant that “test pilot” Jenny Angliss-Goodall could safely sit on a SUP, and even take a small dog along for the ride. In the past Ms Angliss-Goodall has also volunteered to be the first to trial a seat that enables disabled surfers to sit safely on a surfboard during the regular DSA events and be in a wheelchair pulled up a sand dune by a harness. Both innovations were successful.
Mr Drysdale says his search to create “supability” came a couple of years ago when Ms Angliss-Goodall asked if he could carry her on his SUP.
“That weekend I made up a chair for the board and within two weeks we were testing it,” he said.
“The [first] chair [using a beach chair and PVC piping] was too wobbly and the board didn’t have enough volume to float us both properly. We had a lot of fun finding this out, though.
“I then made up a set of handlebars to strap onto my other board that had more floatation and it was a success. I started up the Facebook page and it has gone from there.”
The first prototype chair made by SOLVE utilised a bar stool and included a strap so the paddle could not be lost overboard.
A second version has been undergoing sea trials at Mothers Beach, Mornington.
Mr Drysdale said it was an “amazing feeling being able to offer an experience [surfing and now SUP riding] that is taken for granted by most of us”.
“I love being out on the salt water and think that every one should have that opportunity.”
The father of three describes himself as “a full time tradie. My spare time is spen between DSAMP, making art, surf, paddling and, since adopting an overweight rescue dog, running a lot”.
With SOLVE on the job to finesse the SUP design, Mr Drysdale now wants to create a beach wheelchair with changeable wheels to be used on any surface.
The wheelchairs will cost about $5000 each and once made will be used at all DSAMP events.
He also needs SUP boards of varying sizes and volume and materials to make chairs and support frames for different people.
As well as launching a $12,000 appeal through the crowdfunding site gofundme.com/supability, which had raised more than $1000 by last Friday, Mr Drysdale and Ms Angliss-Goodall also plan to enter the Australia Day fun run.
Details: Facebook or call Matt Drysdale on 0413 793 238.