The Great Ocean Road region of Victoria boasts some Australia’s most famous surf breaks including the iconic Bells Beach. Recently the Insurance Advisernet Foundation was delighted to play its part in supporting the local surfing community via a $5,000 donation to the Ocean Grove branch of the Disabled Surfers’ Association of Australia (DSA).
On hand to present the cheque was keen surfer and DSA volunteer, James Wilson, also the local Authorised Representative for Insurance Advisernet. “I grew up a few blocks back from the beach in Jan Juc, surfed every day and took it for granted,” said James. “My wife and I were introduced to DSA two years ago through a client in the Surfing Industry and we’ve volunteered at every event since. The participants don’t have many opportunities to take a risk in their day-to-day lives and the opportunity to be in the ocean and experience riding a wave is a rare thrill. The DSA surfers are the bravest and most trusting people I’ve ever met. The smiles on their faces – as well as the volunteers and family members – make it all worthwhile!”
The Ocean Grove branch of the DSA runs two surfing days each summer, with the most recent event attracting 81 disabled surfers and 200 volunteers – something that requires a small army of volunteers. All of the participants have different disabilities, ranging from visual impairments, hearing impairments, autism, paraplegia, quadriplegia, downs syndrome, muscular dystrophy, amputations and other serious body and neurological issues.
As for the IA Foundation’s donation? “The $5,000 has directly helped the DSA to purchase a new Beach Access Wheel Chair,” explained James Wilson. “The new chairs are much easier to steer on sand and have four wheels which are all the same size, making it smoother to push and more comfortable for participants. They also have a range of tilt options from sitting upright to laying completely flat, this is particularly important to tailor the best transportation position to suit each participant.”
James also explained the benefits would be enjoyed all year ’round. “It isn’t just for the DSA surfing days. The chair is being made available for other community members to use throughout the year for things like beach access and bush trails. It’s a fantastic new asset for the whole community.”
Initially set up for injured surfers in 1986, today the DSA caters for all disabilities and supports anyone who is keen to have a go at surfing. It has branches in every Australian state, as well as New Zealand.
To get involved or find out more about the Disabled Surfers Association, please visit http://disabledsurfers.org/