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Adaptive Surfing / Paddleboard – World of Adaptive Sports

September 2, 2013

When adaptive athletes hear about traditional surfing, it might come across as an extremely difficult, if not impossible, endeavor.

However, many adaptive athletes in the world of adaptive sports find a way to make the sport work for themselves, becoming quite skilled and successful along the way.

There is, perhaps, no better example than Bethany Hamilton, featured in Make A Hero‘s upcoming film ‘The Current’ <– stay tuned for her story on Friday, September 13th!

When learning to surf, it is important to take one’s time and to be patient. Practicing on the shore and in the shallows is a great way to acquaint oneself with the movements that are intrinsic to surfing.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that it is easier to learn on a longer and wider board since such a board increases stability (though it is also important to size the board to your body).

Finally, working with a professional instructor is a great way to learn slowly, find confidence, and feel comfortable in the water –> find an adaptive group, near you, by clicking here.

While it is true that in some cases it would be difficult for an adaptive athlete to participate in traditional surfing, like most adaptive sports there are variations of conventional surfing that increase its accessibility for athletes.

Some might not consider such variations to be “surfing” as they know it, but they still enable individuals to get out in the water, flow with the power of the ocean, and let it propel them back to the shore.

There are three common adaptive surf options:

  • The first would be a lay-down paddleboard. This option offers a hefty arm and upper-body workout and can be recreationally or competitively used over great distances.
  • A second option would be boogie boarding. Also known as body boarding, the athlete would put a rectangular foam board (“boogie board”) under their chest and swim with the waves and allow it to push them toward the shore. One perk of boogie boards is that they can be used in the shallows with smaller waves as well as in the deep with larger waves. More experienced and adventurous boarders could also flippers on their feet for additional propulsion and turning ability.
  • Another option would be a waveski, which is a surfboard with a seat that the athlete controls using a kayak paddle. While somewhat challenging to learn to navigate, this option is particularly accessible (modifications exist to offer it to a variety of disabilities, but it is especially conducive to those who are unable to stand at length). The structure allows the rider to quickly resurface if the board is overturned. There are many waveski models, depending on the intended use (i.e. recreational vs. competitive).

Finally, when you’re making your plans to go to the beach and get in the water, get in touch with the local Parks and Recreation Department and inquire about the possibility of being provided with a beach wheelchair.

Beaches can be crowded at any and all times of the day, so don’t let the trip from the car to the ocean stop you from getting in the water!

What experience do you have in adaptive surfing?

Which variation of surfing sounds most fun?

Thank you for commenting below!


*** Make A Hero is a registered charity & 501(c)3, creating donor-funded films and media content, inspiring individuals with physical disabilites to enjoy the freedom of adaptive sports & recreation.

Please help us spread the word about adaptive surfers / paddleboarders, and all other heroes, by sharing this post through the social media buttons on this page, liking Make A Hero on Facebooksubscribing to The HERO Newsletter on the right side of this page, and / or giving a generous monetary donation.  Thank you! ***

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