A couple of days after last weekend’s Disabled Surfing Association (DSA) event at Yamba, the group’s president, Steve Keefe, received a phone call.
‘I had a lady ring up – a mother with a disabled child who had participated in the event,’ Mr Keefe recounts.
‘She said she couldn’t describe the look of joy on her child’s face when he was out on the board. He was that happy.
‘Also, being a carer, just being able to sit back and enjoy watching the process without having to be right in there making it happen was great for her.’
That such phone calls are common-place is testament to the contribution the DSA’s events make to the lives of people with a disability across the North Coast of NSW.
And the next event at Clarke’s Beach in Byron Bay on December 8 promises to be no exception.
Organisers are expecting a bumper crop of participants at the event and are in need of an even bigger bunch of surfers and surf-savvy folk to help the day run smoothly.
‘We aim to take the Disabled Community to the beach and have a safe water experience which most of us take for granted,’ Mr Keefe said.
‘It takes a minimum ratio of six to one to do this with ease and dignity. So the call is out for volunteers for a fun filled morning starting at 9am for sign-on, a briefing for the days activities, and then a few hours in the water followed by a free barbeque lunch.’
Normally confined to land and the occasional splash in a swimming pool, participants in the DSA’s events get the opportunity to catch waves and spend time out in the ocean.
There are up to six surf-savvy volunteers on hand to make sure they catch each wave feeling completely safe and secure.
‘We get all ages from toddlers to older people, and people with a range of abilities,’ Mr Keefe says.
‘There are people with intellectual challenges such as down syndrome and people who are quadriplegic and paraplegic.’
‘Depending on the nature of the disability we may change how we go about taking someone out on the board and the ratio of volunteers we have for them.
The day is also a rewarding one for the volunteers.
‘It’s great to see the way the volunteers interact with each other and get to know each other,’ Mr Keefe says.
‘Our branch has been running for 15 years so there are a lot of relationships that have been formed through these gatherings. It’s a great thing to be a part of.’