England’s First Ever Adaptive Surfing Course
Adaptive surfing is often breezed over, or not even mentioned, on level 1 coach’s course. Some people don’t know adaptive surfing exists. Last year saw the UK’s first National Adaptive Surfing Championships, just down the road from us, here in Cornwall. Hawaii, the USA, France and South Africa are currently charging ahead in their development of adaptive surfing oppertunities. However, England are now doing their best to be up there with the world leaders.
What is our national surfing community doing to work towards this?
Last weekend, Kingsurf attended an Adaptive Surf Training course at Fistral beach, organised by Surfing England. It was the first of its kind here in the UK, with the view to making it a regular thing. The focus of the course was on inclusivity – making surfing available to a wider demographic of people. Two individuals in particular made the day particularly memorable and inspiring. Surfability UK’s incredible coaches, are based in the Gower, taking over 700 people surfing, with a range of disabilities. Also Spike Kane, an Scouse, adaptive surfer, now living in California, who has a T1 complete spinal cord injury.
One of the main problems in the UK, that was highlighted, was not only the accessibility of the sport to people who live with a disability, but also that surfing is not advertised as a sport that can be taken up by people with a disability. It may be pursued by someone who surfed before they became disabled, but more often that not a lot of people don’t even consider as an option for themselves. As a national surfing community, we need to make it more widely known that basically anyone can get on a surfboard and enjoy catching waves. Spike also emphasised the necessity to nurture adaptive surfing as a skill that can be developed, not just boost it for its therapeutic value.
After an in-depth discussion on how we can boost adaptive surfing in the UK, we headed to the beach. We donned some “VI goggles” (basically swimming goggles covered in tape and scratches), simulating being visually impaired. With a “pusher and catcher” to get you onto a wave, and safely off at the end, you felt pretty vulnerable. We had to fully be in the hands of strangers. As avid surfers ourselves, when we’re in the sea we’re looking around to see what the wave is doing, who is around us, how big the wave is, and so on. Without the luxury of sight to rely on, the actual feeling of purely sliding down the face of a green wave is incredible. It’s not something we generally appreciate as much as it deserves. We also practiced techniques for transferring surfers from their beach wheelchair, to the surfboard, and back again.
How can we move forward from this?
Spike is in the process of working with the International Adaptive Surf Committee in writing a manual for adaptive surfing. They aim to help develop something more comprehensive that can be included in all coaching courses. He’s even working with shapers from across the pond, working out the best dimensions for custom-made, adaptive surfboards. These designs can then be sent to shapers across the world.
A HUGE thanks to Ben Clifford and the awesome team from Surfability UK and sharing their expanse of knowledge. Thanks to the legend that is Spike Kane, for being so frank about his own experiences, and so determined to change the perception of adaptive surfing. Also a huge props to Surfing England for hosting a fantastically empowering course.