Disabled surfers relish riding the waves

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
Matt Giddy, 13, catches a wave with the help of Tarawave’s surfing teacher Gary Bruckner
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
GETTING WET: Matt Giddy, 13, catches a wave with the help of Tarawave’s surfing teacher Gary Bruckner, rear, as part of disabled surfing programme at Oakura on Saturday.

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Matt Giddy has trouble walking without support but jumps on a surfboard without a second thought.

A disabled surfing programme was held in Taranaki for the second time over the weekend, having previously been held at Fitzroy two years ago.

Matt, 13, who suffers from cerebral palsy and a vision impairment, took part in the last event and was back for more at Oakura on Saturday.

"I never thought I'd be this wet," he grinned.

"I've been out three times.

"I got smashed by a few big ones out there, but I'm trying to get the big ones."

The programme was organised by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, the Oakura Boardriders' Club and Tarawave Surf School.

Disabled sport co-ordinator John Sigurdsson said they planned to develop the programme further in Taranaki.

"This year is about having a go, next year we will have a bigger event," Mr Sigurdsson said.

Twenty volunteers from the Oakura Boardriders' Club were helping out, either in the water or putting on lunch and drinks for participants afterwards.

Six volunteers flanked participants as they rode the wave to offer immediate support, and in most cases participants rode tandem with an experienced volunteer.

Depending on their disability, participants could ride waves on their stomachs, backs or standing up.

Boardriders' Club member Mike Christiansen said it was great to see the kids having so much fun.

"It's so good to put something back into a thing people take for granted."

He wanted to thank the New Plymouth Old Boys' Surf Club in Oakura for the use of its boards and club deck.

"They were a big help."

Mr Sigurdsson said the programme had huge benefits for participants. "They can experience something they might not have thought they could and in a safe environment."

He said if they enjoyed it, the Halberg Trust could support them to get specialised equipment and move further in the sport.

The programme benefited volunteers too, he said.

"It increases their confidence with working with disabled people, there's a lot of good outcomes."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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