Surfers started a wave with disabled association
AFTER a severe motorbike accident in the mid 1980's, Gary Blaschke thought he would never surf again. But a group of his mates carried him down the beach and put him on a nine foot board and got him moving in the waves.
From those humble beginnings, the Disabled Surfers Association (DSA) was born, which now has branches all over Australia and New Zealand.
One of his mates helping Gary down the beach that day was Ted Kabbout, a founding member of DSA who is still involved as a volunteer.
On Saturday at Clarke's Beach in Byron Bay, somewhere between 30 and 50 people with a disability were assisted on to boards by an army of volunteers who were all smiling nearly as much as those catching the waves.
Ted Kabbout said it's "such a buzz" for people with restricted mobility to be able to surf.
"The biggest thing is just the opportunity to go down to the beach and get in to the water... Then there's the therapeutic quality. When anyone gets into the water and catches a wave it's a buzz and it's the same for these guys. And it gets their families here, who might not otherwise come down to the beach because it's too hard, so there's a real knock-on benefit," he said.
Many of the DSA volunteers are surfers themselves and the organisation has an ethos of being about "surfers helping surfers" and "putting smiles on dials".
Mr Kabbout also said it created a social environment where "everyone was on the same level".
"Many of our volunteers don't (previously) have any communication with people with a disability, but we're all laughing and joking together and we have a barbecue at the end of the day, so it creates this social interaction that wouldn't otherwise happen," he said.
They accept any and all sorts of disabilities and have won several national sports safety awards over the years and Mr Kabbout said they pride themselves on being able to get anyone involved.
"Over the years we have found there is no one we can't get in to the water."
One of the participants on Saturday was an 80-year-old woman and Mr Kabbout said they were broadening the scope of the group to include the elderly.
The Northern Rivers branch of DSA also operates at Kingscliff, Evans Head, Yamba and Mini Waters from October to March.