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"Surfability It's Different in Costa Rica It's known as Ocean Healing"

By David W Bedwell ACAA

Australian events held by the Disabled Surfers Associated  mainly last for a day and are attended by a wide ranging age group.  The Events held in Costa Rica by  Ocean Healing Group  are for Children. Originally held as day clinics they rapidly advanced to develop into longer term events. Now the organized events usually last for 7-10days and are vocational and have remained mainly for children. 

If you can spare the time  I will explain how DSA Disabled Surfers evolved in Australia and Ocean Healing evolved in Costa Rica on different sides of the world in similar yet differing ways.   

The founding members were  Gary Blaschke in Australia  and  Christriaan Bailey in Costa Rica  . Both of these men suffered serious accidents Garry was injured in a motorcycling accident and Christiaan whilst skateboarding.  For both men the inclusive equitable common  enjoyment of surfing became a mission  . The mission is expressed in their respective slogans, and mottos  In Australia its  “Putting Smiles on the Dials”  and in  Costa Rica its “Carving the Dis  out of Disability”  Both organizations are  voluntary not for profit  operations  whom rely in the main for funding from monetary donations, plus donations of equipment, fund raising functions, and are supported by local volunteers who are highly trained, well equipped and skilled in the level of aquatic caring required. 

The disabled surfers taking part in the events are usually referred to as Participants  . Depending upon the level of impairment of a participant the number of volunteers in support of their surfing event is assessed. It is not unusual for support teams to number from 6 to 25. Australian locations for Hands on Days are spread over  14 different branches in various states  and therefore in Australia this geographically means that most participants can travel and attend each event within a day. The parents or primary caregivers will be usually engaged in providing transport and attendance at these events. 

Ocean Healing Group by providing a residential once in a lifetime vacation course in the form of a camp welcome the families of Participants in-order that they may be provided with a degree of easement from the often intensive attendance required for a child with disabilities

Who gets to be invited to these camps in Costa Rica you may ask?  These camps are called JAWS (Just Add Water Surfing) and have a sequence number for example JAWS 13  . The Participants are usually found by Christiaan Bailey who is a still active professional chair skater and attendee on the ASP World Championship Tour where he does expression sessions. 

Christiaan comes into contact with potential participants and their families during the course of his extensive travelling. The foundation provides travel food and lodging expenses for  disabled youngsters  funded by donation. 

Both organizations are pioneering advancement in equipment design  and actively promoting the need for more accessible surfing locations to be provided worldwide  . . Surfboard development has introduced adaptable strapping, Surftech custom designed surfboards, amphibious wheelchairs and surf socks. All of these aides have been developed, and tested in the surf. Further practical research is constantly taking place the outcome of which will enable more people to experience the soothing and yet exciting enjoyment of the surf. 

Christiaan’s aim at JAWS  is to teach his campers how to  “Carve a  wave at the curl”  and work their way up from just surfing the foam ball 

I read upon one of the organizers network pages that one of the participants after being  taken into the surf some 100metres  out by the support team turned to him and said  “This is the furthest that I  have ever been from my Wheelchair”  That young participant now is able to share waves not as a disabled person but as an injured surfer. 

It appears that yet another Mission of providing Surfing for people with impairments has certainly been accomplished.  Can you see now how the Dis has been carved out?  Equally importantly it hopefully has made both you and me Smile.   

David Bedwell  now lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia he is an Associate Member of ACAA the Association of Consultants in Access Australia. He is a Consultant at "OBVIUS" ACCESS. DDA Disability Access Consultants, and DDA Action Planners with Offices on the Gold Coast and Sydney NSW. 

David has published other articles related to  participation in Sport and Recreation at all levels by people with disabilities and impairments from the Village Cricketer to the Paralympians. Go to http://www.accessconsultant.com.au for more articles and information. about DISABILITY CONSULTANTS "OBVIUS" ACCESS or e-mail obviusaccess@bigpond.com 

 

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