Organiser Margreet Wiegers, volunteer Ian Cohan, participant Tim Winton-Brown and volunteer Paul McNeil soak up the fun at the Disabled Surfing Association surf day at Clarkes Beach Byron Bay on Saturday.
Organiser Margreet Wiegers, volunteer Ian Cohan, participant Tim Winton-Brown and volunteer Paul McNeil soak up the fun at the Disabled Surfing Association surf day at Clarkes Beach Byron Bay on Saturday. Marnie Johnston

Sea change puts ‘smiles on dials’ for disabled

IT WAS all smiles and surf as the Disabled Surfing Association NSW Far North Coast's last surfing day of the season on Saturday.

Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay was flooded with 111 volunteers, including carers and 52 participants, the biggest number yet for the Far North Coast group, explained one of the key organisers, Margreet Wiegers of Byron Bay.

During their season (October to March) they've had days at Kingscliff, Evans Head, Minnie Waters and Yamba, finishing up in Byron Bay on Saturday.

Participants of any age, level or disability could come along and let the willing volunteers take them out on boards or in sand cruisers (beach wheelchairs), Ms Wiegers said.

As a beach-lover herself, she knows how therapeutic a day on the beach can be.

"I love surfing - being in the water has this de-stressing effect, and I thought 'if I can help give that feeling to people who find it hard to get onto the beach, whose lives are harder than mine, that would be awesome'," Ms Wiegers said.

It's a day for the carers too, she noted, as it's not only the participants who get to come along and feel the sand beneath their toes and the fresh sea breeze, but also their carers.

"It's about putting smiles on dials," she said. "There's often as big smiles on the volunteers' faces as the participants'."

Brunswick Heads man Tim Winton-Brown said he had a great time down on the beach.

"As someone with an acquired disability, it can be very confronting to go to the beach, where there's so many beautiful people walking around," he said. "To see a collective of people with varying disabilities taking their place for a day, it's just great."


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