As a person in a wheelchair, I find that ongoing therapies can be extremely emotionally taxing, among other things – something I think all of us, regardless of our ability, can agree on. When an organisation strives to find ways to improve the quality of lives of persons with disabilities, both physically and emotionally, it can be an amazing thing to be a part of. The Walking on Waves initiative endeavours to find ways to bring surfing – a sport which is seen as inherently needing extreme physical strength – to paraplegics and amputees (as well as other disabilities).
Walking on Waves founder, William Leadbetter, acknowledges surfing often gives surfers a unique sense of freedom. Due to the physical demands of the sport, however, that freedom has been, by-in-large, denied to persons with disabilities.
By providing specially-adapted equipment and wetsuits along with the adoption of an inclusive, positive outlook Leadbetter and his team have been able to bring surfing further into the Disabled Community.
At the same time as bringing surfing into the Disabled Community, Walking on Waves brings together individuals from all around the Cape Peninsula from several different backgrounds – which, in its own right, serves to unite the Cape Town Disabled Community further.
Surfing, as well as bringing a sense of freedom and entertainment to those who do it, has significant medical benefits. The very nature of surfing allows for it to become an effective form of hydrotherapy while, at the same time, being a source of happiness and joy.
While paraplegics and amputees benefit from the work that Walking on Waves does, Leadbetter and his team also cater to other disabilities such as Autism, Cystic Fibrosis and PTSD. The changes Walking on Waves has made to people’s lives are so profound that, as Leadbetter puts it, they “don’t simply live to surf, they surf to live.”
The work that Leadbetter and his team of volunteers at Walking on Waves are doing is commendable. That said, their work could be dramatically improved with a little extra support. Currently, the one-and-a-half-year-old Muizenberg-based organisation is without an adequate number of adapted wetsuits and a dedicated vehicle in which to transport everything that they need to operate effectively.
Even if the support that the Altitude Foundation provide to them allows them to teach one more individual to surf, is it not our duty to give them that support? Isn’t it our obligation to help someone experience the freedom that surfing provides? If all the support only helps Walking on Waves to do is give the joy of surfing to one individual for one day, I would feel proud to have made that person’s life better, that little bit brighter.
See www.walkingonwaves.org.za for more information.
Written by wheelchair-user, Aidan Bizony, for the Altitude Group