On Saturday 9th June 2012. Long Line Surf School organised Northern Ireland’s first Disabled Surf Festival. This had been an idea that I had been playing with for well over a year. I first seen a similar project which was run by Breaking the Barriers which was an organization for people with learning disabilities to have a go at surfing and it really touched me straight away. At this point Long Line Surf School was in the starting process and the special needs boards were already be created but this was somehting completely different.
This was an event, a special day created as a charity event which gave young people aged 8 – 25 with any type of disability the experience of surfing. I have seen it happen in other countries but never in Northern Ireland and it is something which I feel everyone should be able to experience and no disability should ever stop you from doing what you want.
I found when talking to parents and guardians with children who have a disability or additional need is that the majority of the time they could not take part in team games and 1:1 sports coaching could sometimes be very expensive. Also when events are created such as this one it usually excludes the rest of the family and they have to sit on the side lines. Taking that into consideration this is what we ended up with:
A day in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where families, groups and individuals could come together to experience this amazing beach, its waves and its near surroundings. The young people with the disability are given the driver seat and given free reign of the surfing experience whether they catch waves, splash around or just run their hands through the passing water. The families who spent the time to bring the young people down for the day were not excluded as they were allowed to come in the water with their brother / sister / friend/ son or daughter. This gave everyone a happy experience and no one was left out.
When it came to safety for the event we were very lucky to be partnered with Coastal Core Lifeguard Trainers who brought together an amazing team of lifeguards who were great with the kids and stayed in the water for the entire day. Overall we had 5 instructors and 8 lifeguards. This gave us the opportunity to have any young person with any disability and give them the sense of safety knowing that there were so many supervisors looking out for them.
When the guys weren’t in the water they were given the opportunity of a Treasure Trail which was created by Treasure Trail nOrthern Ireland (Allan Hammilton) or to try out some inclsive games with Disability Sports Northenr Irelad who came down and supported teh day. Aubrey Bingham has been in this event since the very start and was a great help when it came to certain aspects of disability which I may have been not aware of.
Overall we had great waves, great volunteers and an amzing number of families, indivuals and groups. It gave me an insght into how disbilites can sometimes prevent people from doing certain thigns but after this event you can see that everyone is capable of surfing and is willing to give anything a go so I would like to say Thank you to the 35 people that took part in this great event. Keep an eye out for future events as this will defintly be happeing again.
This was the best thing that I have ever done and I would like to thank:
- Coastal Core Lifeguard Trainers
- Lifeguard Volunteers
- Surf Instructors
- Richard Gillen
- Mum and Dad
- Fruice Drinks
- Troggs Surf Shop
- Allan Hamilton
- Treasure Trails
- Will Eastham (W.E surfboards)
- Limavady Council
- Department of Agricultural and Rural Development
- Norma and Connor
- Des Loughery
- All the families, individuals and groups that turned up.