The Mid North Coast Disabled Surfers Association is a group of volunteers working to make surfing all-inclusive and provide a safe and fun environment for people with all levels of disability who want to get out in the water on the Coffs Coast.
What is Mid North Coast Disabled Surfers Association all about?
We are a group of like-minded individuals who enjoy helping others and also share a love of the surf. A lot of us have grown up at the beach and are surfers ourselves. We are about making surfing all-inclusive, and providing a safe and controlled environment for participants with all levels of disability to come and enjoy a few waves.
We know how much benefit there is in “salt water therapy” and how special the feeling of surfing is.
Our branch is one of 16 around Australia and New Zealand which makes up the DSA Australia family.
How long has The Mid North Coast Disabled Surfers Association (DSA) been running on the Coffs Coast?
The Mid North Coast branch started with three events over the first summer of 2007-08, before spreading to four events within a couple of seasons. The events are run at Woolgoolga in the north and Jetty Beach at Coffs Harbour in the south. In recent years we’ve also held events at Scotts Head.
How was the DSA established?
DSA Mid North Coast branch began back in spring 2007. Bryn Goode and Barney Miller, locals to the Sawtell and Coffs Harbour area, decided to call a training day to see if the interest was there in the local community to set up a branch. Overwhelmed with some 75 new trainees, Jim Bradley and the DSA Australia crew jumped straight into the training, and the branch has never looked back. Barney Miller, himself wheelchair-bound as a result of a motor vehicle accident, became the unofficial “patron” of the branch in its formative years. Donations from Barney’s annual “Barney Miller Surf Classic” held at Sawtell helped deck out the branch with equipment.
DSA Australia has been going for some 30 years. Gary Blaschke, current President and founding member, was a passionate surfer and injured in a motorcycle accident in 1986. Unable to surf on his own due to a leg injury, some mates got together and took him for a paddle, and that’s where it all began.
Gary saw a void that needed to be filled, as over the years, many surfers with disabilities have unfortunately been loners with no one to help them get back into the water. Many suffer from disabilities that the general public would not consider a disability. From asthmatics to joint injuries to paraplegic, many members have found friendship, support and have renewed their interest in surfing. Gary’s vision quickly extended to all classes of disabilities, as it is today. DSAA is a totally voluntary organisation, which sets world’s best practice for disabled surfers.
How many people attend the events?
An average event would have about 40 participants surfing and around 100 volunteers assisting. Our bigger days have around 50 participants, and up to 130 volunteers. Some of these events are massive, but everyone gets at least a couple of surfs in, and we all finish with a smile on our face.
What effect does learning to surf have on people who have disabilities?
Salt water therapy is second to none. There’s an old saying that “only a surfer knows the feeling”, and that’s what we want to share.
Last summer we had the absolute honour of taking a disabled man in his 30s into the surf for the first time in his life. Words can’t do justice to what he, his family and the volunteers experienced that day. It was such a humbling experience for all involved, with a few tears shed all round.
Because of the level of disability that a lot of our participants have, it’s almost impossible for their family or carers to safely take them into the surf environment. But the confidence they gain in the water when surrounded by trained team leaders and volunteers transfers into their general lives as well. Some of these guys have really tough lives and never thought they’d be a surfer. It’s really positive and confidence-boosting for them.
Our days also provide opportunities for the families and carers to relax and enjoy the beach for a couple of hours and network with others in a similar position.
What events do you have coming up?
We’ve had two events this season, with two to go – Saturday, January 6th at the northern corner of Coffs Jetty Beach, then Saturday 3rd February at Woolgoolga Main Beach in the corner.
What can the Coffs community do to get on board?
Volunteer, volunteer or volunteer! Like any volunteer organisation, we also rely on the generosity of sponsors to help us financially. That’s something really important to our committee.
Local Federal Member of Parliament Luke Hartsuyker is a long time supporter of all things DSA. Luke has attended many events as a volunteer and has donated thousands of dollars to the branch from his annual charity bike ride around his electorate.
John Paul College, Year 12 of 2013, also donated heavily from their annual fundraiser to our branch. Village Sports, Bunnings, Coffs C.ex, Woolgoolga Self Storage and many others help us out, and that makes a huge difference to us.
What’s the best place to get in contact with the DSA?
There’s plenty of info and contact details for our branch on the web or Facebook.
http://disabledsurfers.org/nsw/mid-north-coast-branch/ or https://www.facebook.com/Mid-North-Coast-Disabled-Surfers-Association-455585941147985/