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Surfing blind in Cornwall

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Newquay sea in the summer. The beach is empty and the water is blue.

Can blind people surf?

The short and very happy answer is yes! Living with arthritis since the age of 8 and taking an accessible surfing lesson in Cornwall as a teenager, I knew surfing could be adapted for those with limited mobility.

Back in September 2020 I took to the Cornish surf once more and surfed for the first time as a blind person. Not having great balance, thanks arthritis, and being totally blind, my only real reservation was whether or not I could maintain balance on the surfboard with both complications. I’m proud to say I did pretty well!

What is surfing?

Surfing is the sport of riding ocean waves towards the shore whilst either standing or lying on a board. The ultimate goal is to ride along the unbroken face of the wave and tuck into the tube created, as the wave’s lip breaks, known as a barrel. I don’t speak surf lingo, this was taken from Newquay Activity Centre but more about them in a moment

What do you need to know and bring before your surf lesson?

  • Make sure to pack a towel and sea shoes – if you’re anything like me and have sensitive feet, they are a worthwhile investment!
  • Arrive at least half an hour before your surf lesson, wet suits actually take a while to get on, particularly if they are wet! And if you are driving you’ll need to find a parking space ahead of time.
  • If you do have a disability, I would recommend calling the surf school ahead of time to talk through your requirements and. How to get onto the beach, particularly if you need an accessible route.
  • On average a surf lesson is around 2 hours, which includes the safety walk-through and demonstration on the surfboard and how to paddle.
  • You don’t have to spend the entire 2 hours in the water but time does go quickly. It is a total body workout so don’t be surprised if you are tired and achy for a few days afterwards.

Surfing In Cornwall: My blind girl surfing experience

Our mini staycation was in Newquay Cornwall, surfing is something both Kirsty and I had done once before but neither Nate nor Grant had, so surfing was definitely on the agenda. Being the typical millennials we are, we Google’d surfing in Cornwall and Newquay Activity Recent was top of the list. We booked our tickets online and in the morning as we were driving into Newquay for our surf lesson, I called ahead to explain that I am blind and Ida would be with us.

We spoke with Grant who assured us that they would be able to accommodate me and we could bring Ida onto the beach with us. Upon arrival, we were asked to fill out medical information forms, struggled into our wet suits and made our way down the stone steps to the beach. My sea shoes were my saving grace for the descent. Dan our instructor was brilliant, he carried mine and Grant’s surfboards down to the beach so Grant could assist me.

Dan ran through the safety procedure and how to perfect the 5 step board mount and standing positions. Ida took this opportunity to start sniffing and rolling around in the sand; clearly she thought we were there for a free run! Dan’s verbal instructions were great and made sure everyone felt safe and comfortable before we even took a step towards the water.

Being the absolute boss queen I am, I got the VIP treatment and was handed over to Sam for essentially a one to one lesson. Sam was an utterly fantastic instructor and audibly communicated with me constantly about my body position and if I felt comfortable continuing onto the next step.

We talked and joked a lot, Sam’s encouragement and joy was infectious! Because there was so many of us in the water and Sam was guiding me through the water, and releasing me to the break in the waves, I only got as far as kneeling on the surf board. By the time I steadied myself on my hands and knees I was bedding into the sand, and yes I did fall off my board and into the water! I kept my eyes and mouth shut as I was falling so no nasty salt water could get in my eyes or mouth!

Not being able to “see” where I was, and then falling in, was slightly disorientating but Sam was by my side the entire time which helped me to reorientate myself quickly! Ida had the time of her life bounding in and out of the water to join in the fun! Kirsty and Nate were gems and all 4 of us took it in turns to keep an eye on Ida, not that she paid much attention to us!

I cannot thank the team at Newquay activity centre for their guidance, flexibility and patience with me throughout my beginner surf lesson. It’s times like this, that even though a business is accommodating my disabilities, I actually forget about them in the moment because I’m just having a fun experience like everyone else around me!

For reference.

Newquay activity centre in Cornwall has now moved locations since our surf lesson. They have moved along to another beach w where the changing rooms, showers, hut and beachfront are wheelchair accessible! There are photos on their blog and social media but it’s my understanding that they are going to update FAQ’s to give further information about this very soon.

So, there you have it, my experience of surfing in Cornwall! Have you ever been surfing? Would you consider it after reading this post? Let me know in the comments below.

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