An exciting new development in surf technology is making headway for wheelchair users to experience the waves first hand.
Cerebra Innovation Centre, in partnership with Surfability UK and Tonic Surf Therapy, have begun designing bespoke surf boards for people with limited mobility and neurological difficulties, allowing wheelchair-bound adrenaline junkies to get out of their chairs and onto the water.
Kai Lewis is a thirteen year old boy from Port Talbot, who suffered a stroke at age one and consequently lives with cerebral palsy. He helped to test out the new products recently out on the water at Llangennith Beach in West Wales. Onlookers watched as Kai surfed his first wave, with a little help from his tandem surfer, a trained surf instructor riding on the back of his board. The board is a pioneer surf product, with a supportive “bucket” seat and space on the back for an experienced surfer to steer it in the right direction. Kai had a very successful day out on the water, catching waves with a huge grin on his face and his mother looking on proudly.
Surfability UK (surfing for disabled children) and Tonic Surf Therapy (working with surf and ocean therapy programmes in the UK and the USA) have teamed up with Cerebra Innovation Clinic to develop this product. Surfability UK was founded in 2013, as a response to increasing demand for inclusive surfing lessons that would allow people living with disabilities to experience the surf first hand. They design specific surf lessons and experiences for groups and individuals based on their needs, in a safe and supportive environment. Amongst their equipment are Tandem Surfboards, Surfing Helmets, Buoyancy Aids and Beach Access Wheelchairs. They also use innovative communication with IPad software to ensure clear communication and instruction between teacher and student.
They aren’t the first to make progress in making surf more accessible to wheelchair users, but they are the first to create individualised products for specific conditions. Ross Head, CIC Product Design Manager, says that “since its inception, CIC has made a tremendous difference to the lives of many children with neurological conditions across the UK. The unique strategic vision for CIC means that we are able to respond to individual requests for help and can make small numbers of bespoke products that focus heavily on individual requirements and inclusion into society.”
Overall, the day was a great success, supported by top weather conditions and a supportive team by Kai’s side. His mother, Leanne Lewis, expressed her pride, saying “hopefully it’s going to get more children out of their wheelchairs… The more you can get them out the better.” Most exciting is what these continuing innovations in surf and mobility technology represent for the future, for wheelchair users, and for surf lovers alike. If you’re a surfer, or you simply love the water, you’ll know the thrill of the wave, and the residual calm, and how the water becomes like a meditation when you immerse yourself in it. Everyone deserves to experience that feeling, and now they can, thanks to CIC, Surfability UK and Tonic Surf Therapy.
For more information on innovative surf technology and therapy, take a look at the following:
Surfability UK: http://www.surfabilityukcic.org/
Tonic Surf Therapy: http://www.cynnalycardi.org.uk/