Imagine a hospice, orthotics manufacturer, construction innovation company, fiberglass manufacturer and a surf school all came together in a joint effort to make the ocean a place for everyone.

Sounds like a movie, right?

Read a story about a surfing community up north that knows no obstacle is too big to overcome.

St Oswalds hospice and South Shields Surf School started looking at prone surfing for some of their client’s last spring.

Nick Jones, who runs South Shields Surf School has had a dream for many years – to have a seated supported solution for a surfing to get more people in the sea.

Heather, a qualified surf and sup instructor, whose family business manufactures custom orthotics and additionally custom seating systems for people with often complex disabilities, simply thought she could help.

They all got together along with Beach Access North East and some of the innovation team from Peacocks to talk about ideas and solutions with a board that had been previously donated.

After looking at bespoke seating, one of Peacocks team found a moulded lightweight seat (very similar to the ones they use at The Wave Project).

Next question was clear: how to fix it to the board to maximise the safety of the clients and give flexibility to the surf team to allow for variances in weight and physical ability in terms of muscle function?

Collectively they came up with a system that moves the seat forwards and backwards as well as alternates the pitch of the chair.

How did they fix the chair to the surfboard? This is where East Coast Fiberglass came in. They came up with a solution that gave maximum stability to the chair whilst maintaining the integrity of the board.

Once they had engineered this solution, the whole team had an enormous amount of fun testing it in decent waves – much bigger than you’d want to take clients in!

The comprehensive testing in harsh conditions revealed a few extra requirements for the board, such as extra grab handles for the surf instructor and supporting crew.

Heather from St. Oswald’s says:

‘’It’s genuinely been a real team effort and there are now several other surf schools who are interested in providing adaptive surfing alongside their regular surfing. I’ve seen the list of people wanting to give it a go and it’s huge!’’

There’s so much potential to grow and develop the project and Tynemouth crew have already got ideas of how to widen and improve the offering for next year.

Nick’s surf school is really special. He not only offers these sessions, but he also runs sessions for those with special educational needs. Additionally, he gets sponsorship and sources funding so that the price is either free or at most the same as an able-bodied session.

Heather rounded up the story with: ‘’It’s been an absolutely brilliant project to be involved with some incredible outcomes for the clients we’ve taken. Some have highly complex medical needs and just haven’t had an opportunity like this before. I hope that collaboratively that there will be more to come next year too.‘’

Surfing England are incredibly proud to have a network of over 50 Accredited Surf Schools across England, and with so many delivering amazing projects and being community hubs. Do you have a story you’d like us to share? Let us know on email to lenka@surfingengland.org

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