Wednesday 08 January 2014
Surfers with disabilities can look forward to riding the crest of new wave in 2014 thanks to a generous grant from Swansea City.
"This has made my dreams become a reality"
Surfability UK, the not-for-profit community interest group that provides surfing experiences for people with disabilities, was selected as the outstanding project to receive the special grant from the Premier League club's community arm.
SwansAid was set up in August by Swansea City Community Trust to help fund special projects within the community in a bid to help address the issues, needs and aspirations of communities within West Wales.
The Swans Community Trust handed over the substantial cheque to Ben Clifford, the Director of Surfability, before the Swans played Everton at the Liberty recently, and Clifford believes SwansAid has made his dreams for his surfing school become a reality.
"SwansAid is going to let me invest in much more specialist equipment," Clifford told the club's website. "I've been looking for ways to fund what I want to do, and this has made my dreams become a reality.
"At the moment, I specialise in teaching people with autism, but I want to help lots of other people with different disabilities. I'm now going to have access to specialised training and be able to train my helpers in the manual handling of people so that they are then able to help with the likes of wheelchair transfers."
Clifford, who himself suffers from a condition called dyspraxia that affects his balance and coordination, believes surfing has also been of huge benefit to him. Now the Bristol-born director and coach is hoping to pass on the experiences he has gained thanks to surfing to other people with disabilities.
"On the board the other day, one of the boys said: 'I want another wave'. I've never heard him say a whole sentence before, so it was just amazing."
He added: "Surfing was perfect because I could learn balance and coordination in a way that if I fell off it didn't hurt. It's really helped me and I wanted to pass on what I've learned to other people.
"We've had some amazing moments on the tandem boards with some guys who aren't normally able to speak. We are able to use the iPad to communicate with them to make sure they understand the information and the safety details. They understand perfectly what is going on, but they just can't communicate that to you in a normal way.
"For example, one of the boys talks a little, but in single words. On the board the other day, he said a whole sentence. I've never heard him say a whole sentence before. He said: 'I want another wave', so it was just amazing."
Meanwhile, David Smith, who teaches at Penybryn Special School and brings many of his students out for surfing lessons with Surfability, described the immense satisfaction he got from seeing them enjoy themselves while learning at the same time.
"It's inspiring to see the kids who have never been on the beach before – never mind surfed – having fun in the water," he said. "The money from SwansAid will open up doors for so many people. It will allow them to buy more equipment so that the less able kids can learn to surf too. It's honestly amazing to see. Everyone needs a Ben in their lives."
After handing over the £10,000 cheque to Surfability, Swans Community Trust Manager Linden Jones praised the work of Ben Clifford and his surfing school.
"This project does fantastic work and we are delighted to be able to offer our support so that they can expand and help more disabled people," said Jones. "All people need access to sports and leisure, and Surfability empowers disabled people to explore having sport as part of their life."
SwansAid is also due to announce the winners of six smaller grants of £2,000 later this month.