Surfing made for all
For Hibiscus Surf School manager, Ray Ohrenschall, there is no other sensation like riding a wave… “It feels as though you’re flying” … and there’s no greater satisfaction than teaching someone to surf.
“When you see someone accomplish something that they never thought they could, it’s gratifying, and I can see it’s very empowering to those who do our courses.”
The school offers adaptive surf lessons to people with disabilities at Main Mount Beach over summer as well as Friday Floats which are an opportunity to try kayaking, SUP, snorkelling or swimming.
“Each disability is totally different so being able to cater to each client isn’t difficult, but it is a skill. Some people need full assistance from the beach to the water and the surf conditions need to be right. We won’t take them out if it’s not safe. We never want any surfer to have a bad experience.”
Among those taking up the chance to learn surfing are two young women who are visually impaired.
“They booked ten lessons with us and it’s incredible to see them progress. There’s a lot of hooting and hollering. They’re having a really good time and surfing has given them the confidence to try other sports like CrossFit and running.”
Each surfer’s abilities are carefully considered before each lesson and larger adaptive boards with handles on the sides are available. Two instructors are supported by at least six volunteers to create a ‘safe surf lane’ in the water.
“There’s always someone close to help if needed. We provide the opportunity to get in the water and get comfortable. For all our instructors, the adaptive surf programme is easily our favourite part of the summer.”
“One guy that I will never forget. It was the first time he’d been in the ocean in about ten years. He came out of the water after catching some decent waves and he was in tears. He didn’t know how to describe how happy he was. It’s great to see that. It’s special. You really can’t put a price tag on that.”