Surfing with the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia

Group of volunteers and participants enjoying a surfing with disabilities activity at the beach with the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia.

Surfing with disabilities might sound challenging, but with the right support it can be exhilarating and fun. Blue Badge Insurance recently spoke to Ian Gay, President of the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia (DSA) to find out more.

In this article we explore Disabled Surfers Association of Australia’s ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ offering. If you’ve ever wanted to surf and you live with limited mobility then find out more, right here.

A group of volunteers from the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia support a person to surf with disabilities

Is surfing with disabilities possible?

Surfing for the first time can be daunting and if you’re living with disability then you may have ruled out the possibility. But surfing with disabilities is possible and safe, provided you have the right support team with you.

“The DSA will take anyone with any disability out to experience the fun of the surf regardless of their experience.”

– Ian Gay, President of the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia

Whether you’ve surfed before or not, and whether you live with limited mobility or not, surfing may provide you with adventure and excitement. Not only is this a sport that adults can get involved in, but it’s open to kids too.

Have a look at this video to see kids with disabilities enjoying the surf thanks to the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia:

Benefits of surfing with disabilities

Sport is a wonderful way to develop and preserve fitness and self-esteem. It’s an incredible way to build friendships too. Blue Badge spoke to Ian about what some of the benefits of surfing with disabilities offers.

“I believe that experiencing the surf for someone living with disability offers a sense of freedom and gives them the chance to take part in something that is usually out of their reach. Our volunteers all come with the purpose to make the day fun and all-inclusive and we really pride ourselves on the way everyone is looked after and treated as just another surfer coming to the beach to catch some waves!”

Because we recognise the unique way in which sport provides a unique outlet for staying happy and healthy, we write about it often. Here are some great resources on various inclusive sports across Australia:

More inclusive sports in Australia

Volunteers from the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia enjoy a photo opportunity with a surfer who has just been enjoying learning to surf with limited mobility

Getting on the beach with a wheelchair

Beaches, sand and wheelchairs don’t always go together, so we asked Ian if the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia provides beach friendly wheelchairs.

“All our branches have beach wheelchairs available for use during/at our events. We also actively work with local councils to encourage them to supply beach wheelchairs and improve beach accessibility.”

If you’re someone who loves the beach but might not be planning on surfing, then read about visiting the beach with a wheelchair for tips on how.

A young girl is learning to ride the waves with the support of volunteers from the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia

Joining the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia

If you’ve experienced surfing with disabilities and enjoyed it so much that you want to become a member, that’s great! Becoming a member the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia means you’ll have a chance to build on your friendships with other members and be able to attend many of the surfing events for free.

“For DSA Members who are participating surfers their membership entitles them to attend any event, at any of our 18 Australian branches for free*. DSA Members who are volunteers have the “feel good” benefit of knowing their membership supports the running of our events and putting ‘Smiles On Dials’.”

*Note that a couple of branches do charge an additional minimal "per event" charge to further assist with their branch expenses but the vast majority do not charge any extra. 
A man who lives with disabilities is getting ready to surf for the first time

Volunteering with the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia

If you’re reading this article and you’d like to become a volunteer to support people surfing with disabilities, then you’re in luck. The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia works with a large group of volunteers for each support team.

“Anyone can be a volunteer – we have roles for those who are confident/experienced in the water as well as roles on the beach and at the registration tents etc. In short, if someone wants to volunteer we will find a suitable role for them.”

Ian says, “Depending on the branch and the event numbers, volunteer numbers can vary dramatically. As an average guide, a recent event on the Gold Coast had 55 surfing participants and approximately 120 volunteers to assist on the day. One team taking one surfing participant requires a minimum of around 16-20 volunteers to meet our safety guidelines.”

Must you have previous experience working with disability to volunteer?

Ian says, “I personally have no personal experience with anyone with a disability in my family or community and that is quite common in the DSA. We find we get volunteers attending who often just want to do a good thing! In addition we do get volunteers who have family members with a disability.”

“I would like to add, on a personal note, a massive thank you to all of our DSA surfing participants and their families for putting their trust in us to give them a fun, safe experience. It’s an absolute buzz as a volunteer to get a high-five, a hug, a message of thanks for doing something to so many of us take for granted.”

Watch this video to see how the volunteers support people surfing with disabilities:

Surfing with disability for the first time

The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia has been operational for over 30 years. It was founded by Gary Blaschke, who had a motorcycle accident that limited his mobility. As a surfer, he knew he wanted to get back in the water and that with the right support it could be possible.

He launched the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia and since it has grown from strength to strength. If you’d like to surf but aren’t sure, Ian says:

“Just give it a go! We will take incredible care of you at our events, we will listen to your needs, we will take our time if you are hesitant and we will never rush you in to doing anything.”

Know that you’re supported

He adds, “the biggest challenge for new surfers can often be the fear of the unknown or fear of the surf. Our volunteer teams ensure we offer a safe, friendly and encouraging environment and our surfer safety is always paramount. We will never rush anyone out and into the water and will always listen to our surfers and/or their carers in case they have any specific concerns or needs.”

Surf conditions rule the day

“Our biggest risk”, says Ian, “is to assess that surf conditions are manageable for us – we will never run events in large surf and always look for the safest beaches and conditions. Events will be cancelled if there is rough/dangerous surf or thunderstorms. Safety always comes first. Our branch committees will always assess conditions in the lead up to, and on the morning of, their events.”

Group of volunteers from the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia assisting a child in a yellow life vest to surf on a board at the beach.

A message from Blue Badge Insurance

Blue Badge Insurance would like to thank Ian and the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia for sharing their insights. Surfing with disabilities such as limited mobility can no doubt be uniquely liberating and satisfying!

When you’re not in the water, those of you who use mobility equipment understand its value in everyday life. The right wheelchair, mobility scooter or modified car is all about freedom of movement and independence.

As Australia’s first disability and independence insurance specialist, we at Blue Badge Insurance know how valuable these items are. That’s why we offer affordable wheelchair insurance and mobility scooter insurance and car insurance for wheelchair accessible vehicles and disability converted cars.

If you have a disability parking permit you can get 25% off our disability car insurance. Click below to start your quote and find out more.

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