The inaugural Surfing South Africa Extreme Abilities Adaptive Surfing Day, which was supported by funding allocated to SSA by the National Lottery and Distribution Trust Fund, took place on World Disability Day at Bloubergstrand in the Cape Peninsula on Saturday (December 3) and was an inspiring experience for all who took part.
Tough conditions and strong winds did not dampen spirits and the fantastic vibe, positive energy and big smiles made the experience special for everyone involved. Everyone involved played their part, from the brave participants with various disabilities to the ISA accredited coaches and all the volunteers and it was a memorable day that celebrated the determination of the human spirit.
The small 3ft windblown waves were not the best conditions to take beginner surfing students into the water, let alone surfers with disabilities, but the passion, vision and inspiration of International Surfing Association (ISA) Level 1 accredited coach Dries Millard ensured that twelve individuals with various disabilities got the opportunity to get on a surfboard and feel the sensation of riding an ocean wave.
Dries himself is a T8 Complete Paraplegic after a horrific car accident 3 years ago. His love for the ocean is what helped him recover from and Surfing South Africa had the privilege of first meeting him when he applied for and successfully completed the ISA Level 1 Surf Instructor course in February 2011. After completing the course Dries and Tasha Mentasti (ISA Level 1 Course Presenter and Surfing South Africa Liaison and Operations Manager) got together and created the first ever Adaptive Surfing Day to take place in South Africa.
The motivation behind the Adaptive surfing Day was to show the public that anyone, disabled or not, was able to do anything that they set their heart and minds to achieve.
With only 6 weeks to plan the programme, which included essential beach and water safety, Dries and Tasha’s passion ensured the success of the 2011 Surfing South Africa Extreme Abilities Adaptive Surfing Day.
Adaptive surfing is part and parcel of the International Surfing Association and Surfing South Africa mission to introduce surfing to as many people as possible. Support for transformation and development from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund has made projects such as the Adaptive Surfing Day both a possibility and a reality. In addition, the generosity of the Big Bay Lifesaving Club, who allowed SSA to use their facilities, Gigs Cilliers at Surf Zone Big Bay who provided surfboards and equipment on the day, and Heather Van Wyk and her team from APD (Western Cape Association for Persons with Disabilities) who helped with volunteers and supplied refreshments throughout the day, made the event the success that it was.
Willing support and care from ISA accredited surf coaches Patrick Young, Shaheen Van Der Schyff, Ishmaeel Cassim, Josh Louw, Emiel Liebenberg and Tasha Mentasti as well as all the volunteers from West Coast Boardriders Surf Club made the day very special indeed.
To add to the occasion physiotherapist Stefanie Lochner gave her services to the participants free of charge for the entire day, making sure that they were comfortable getting in and out of their wetsuits after each surf and tending to any sore muscles.
Big Bay local Dion McCafferty, a T6 incomplete paraplegic, brought the day to a close with an inspirational demonstration by paddling out to the backline at Big Bay and catching waves unassisted. Dion, whose perseverance and patience has helped him continue his life as a surfer, is now venturing into the realm of tow surfing and is thoroughly enjoying his time in the water.
The final accolades must go to Dries Millard for his passion, determination and will to succeed. On his own he is special but he credits his amazing family, Miranda, Pieter and Albert for much of his resolve as they continue to support him in everything he does. They all drove through from Langebaan to volunteer on the day and help Dries achieve another milestone.
Go to www.surfingsouthafrica.co.za to see pictures of the activities at the SSA Extreme Abilities Adaptive Surfing Day and to read some comments about the event by Dries Millard.