Foreword: SurfGSD’s Ben Clifford headed down to South Devon with representatives from 4 other surf schools to help out at this event. I was amazed when Ben told me about this poor show, especially as the organisers had contacted the BSA and all BSA-approved surf schools (there must be 60 + schools), well over six months ago.
If you have not read Surf Nation by Alex Wade yet, please do so, as there are many references to the lack of surfing development in the UK but much willingness to make money off the back of surfing. Here was a good chance for those referred to in that book to start making ammends and increase social inclusion- what a shame. I will be reviewing the book when I get time and would like to take this opportunity to thank Alex for bringing serious issues to the fore on a national scale.
Bigbury Bay South Devon witnessed a fantastic first on Saturday hosting a surf camp for autistic children – Breaking the Barrier. Seventy children aged between 6-18 years were taught by surfing instructors from the USA and UK. Good weather and small waves provided the perfect conditions for the children to enjoy a unique new experience.
Opportunities to take part extreme sports such as surfing, are few and far between for children with autism. The liaison between local charity Lifeworks, the UK’s leading surfing charity Surf Relief UK and the Surf2live organisation from Long Beach New York made this Breaking the Barrier event happen. With the help of local and national sponsors Discovery Surf School, Bournemouth Surf School, O’Neil, White stuff, SurfGSD and Evo Management young people from across the South West were provided with expert tuition and a great day out.
The Bay rang out with squeals of delight and excitement as autistic children rode waves. Many stood up first time, some road in on their stomachs while others just revelled in the freedom of the water and the new experience. The day saw tears and smiles all round. Parents and carers watched as their children, whose emotions are often stifled by their autism, open up and flourish in the ocean and in taking part in surfing.
With specially made large tandem surfboards the experienced instructors were able to take even the most severely autistic children in the water in a safe environment. With help from these instructors’ children as young as 6, much to their delight, stood up and rode waves.
Dave Manley – Chairman of Surf Relief UK says:
I have never seen so much joy on the faces of children, parents and surfing instructors at a surfing event. Surf Relief UK is dedicated to providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people. Events like this strengthen our resolve to do more for others who don’t have the advantages in life that many of us take for granted. We aim to support this event in future years and to provide equipment and funding for children with disabilities, such as autism, to take part in surfing through a network of surf schools across the country.
Liz Leader from Lifeworks says:
The event was a great success. Not only has it provided seventy children an experience that will stay with them for life, it has also raised the awareness of how sports like surfing can open up children with autism giving them a joy that is sometimes so hard to find in their lives. Our partnership with local and national agencies and the enthusiasm and experience of the instructors from the United States and UK has provided a real spring board to the Breaking the Barrier initiative. The demand is clearly there for developing further opportunities for disabled children using the sport of surfing and Lifeworks in partnership with Surf Relief UK are dedicated to making a difference for the children and their parents and carers.
Elliot Zuckerman founder of Surf2live says:
It has been great to bring some of my instructors over here to Devon to help out on this first ever surfing event for autistic children. Just like at home I am always moved by the emotion and joy I see from the children experiencing surfing for the first time and their parents seeing the change in their children as a result. Working with the UK instructors has been exhilarating and I hope that some of the experience we have brought to the event will be replicated in surf schools around the country. The partnership forged at this event between Surf2live, Lifeworks and Surf Relief UK will continue into the future.