For as long as I can remember I have always been into the surf culture, when I was in my teens I would always wear the surf brand clothing and watch surf movies. When I was diagnosed with my sight loss I thought I would never be able to learn how to surf. I have travelled all over the world to some of most famous surfing spots, Australia, America, Hawaii, and Mexico, I would always sit on the beach watching the surfers walk into the ocean and surf. I used to think to myself how I would love to learn to surf but believed at the time that my sight loss would always prevent me from doing so.
I have now been a surfer for about 5 years. I owe this to my husband, he had surfed when he was younger, he was keen to show me that there was no reason I couldn’t try. After a bit of convincing he took my nephew and myself to a local break. We hired the huge Swell surfboards, he first taught us to pop up on our boards on dry land, then we got to go in the water. It was so much fun. By the end of our first session I had learnt to get to ride a wave to the shore line on my knees. My
next lesson saw me stand up for the first time and ride my first wave properly. It was amazing, from that moment on I was hooked!
As a visually impaired surfer, I try to surf a little apart from the main line up of other surfers or surf at less crowded breaks, this is so that I do not drop in on any one or cut anyone up in the water.
My husband will walk in beside me, we both have our own boards under our arms, he will talk me though the white water and then once we are far enough out I am pretty independent, in the early days we had a code word for when the wave was coming, Nalu, this is a Hawaiian word for wave. This would indicate for me to start paddling to catch the wave. Now I am able to feel the sets and know when to begin paddling myself, the rest is down to mother nature. There truly is nothing like standing on your board, being pushed along by a force of energy, it feels like you are flying. My style of riding is more of a soulful stance, I like to weave and glide through the water.
We have surfed in some beautiful locations, one of which was Hanelei Bay in Kauaii. We often migrate to the uk west coast for most of the summer, where the waves are more consistent, North Devon is like a second home to us, I love to surf at Saunton Sands. Other favourite breaks are Gwithian, Bude, Woolacombe and more locally to us Joss Bay in Broadstairs, Folkestone and Camber Sands. I want to return to Australia and surf on the East Coast. We have plans to go over to Ireland, the West Coast has a good reputation for surfing. Over the arm of my wetsuit I wear a white band with a visually impaired logo on it, this is to let people know about my sight loss, however now when I walk down the beach with my Blinded Soul surfboard it kind of tells everyone anyway!
Over the years I have had numerous surfboards, my current quiver consists of 3 surfboards, I have a Tiki bamboo 5.5ft board, this is my summer machine, it’s really wide and volumous, which is perfect for those small summer waves, I also have a Beach Beat 6.1ft short board, this is better suited for the bigger waves. My prize possession is my custom JP Blinded Soul Surfboard, it is that all rounder, go to board, it’s a beautifully hand crafted board, 5.6ft, a rich purple colour, a 5 fin set up with a long board fin box. It has the Blinded Soul logo on the deck and the Blind A Sixth Sense artwork on the bottom.
Surfing for me is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life, its one of the most mindful activities, it keeps you present and in the moment, it connects you with the ocean and mother nature, it keeps you very fit and strong, teaches you patience. It also gives you a better appreciation of our oceans and the marine life that live in them. Our oceans are being more and more polluted and we need to change this, otherwise we will lose the marine life that live within them. We need to take care of our oceans before its too late.
I strongly recommend surfing for anyone, there are some great surf schools out there and some of which are all geared up for people with disabilities, Healing Waves and Surfability are just 2 specialist organisations that bring surfing to everyone.
I say if you would like to give surfing a go, GO FOR IT, feel the stoke and get hooked, thats what I did, surfing is one of the most enjoyable activities I do.