Correct procedures: Peter Stannard of the Disabled Surfers Association gives Lyncoln McKechnie, 2, a lift in a beach wheel chair.
Correct procedures: Peter Stannard of the Disabled Surfers Association gives Lyncoln McKechnie, 2, a lift in a beach wheel chair.

Disability surfers at risk

DISABLED surfers are at risk in the hands of ‘unqualified wannabe helpers’.

That is the message from the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia (DSAA).

According to the DSAA, the standard of care for many disabled people choosing to go surfing is at risk because proven safety protocols are not being followed by surfing groups.

“For the past two-and-a-half decades, the DSAA has given thousands of people with disabilities the opportunity to experience surfing in total safety,” DSAA co-founder Jim Bradley said

“We employ ‘world’s best practice,’ which says among other things there needs to be a six-to-one ratio of helpers to each surfer.

“In surfing schools it is the complete opposite.”

Far North Coast area co-ordinator Peter Stannard agreed and said the issue had become more serious over the past year.

“The biggest problem is that many learn to surf schools are taking on anyone who walks through their doors even if they are disabled, and tyring to teach them to surf,” Mr Stannard said.

For legal reasons, Mr Stannard would not name specific surfing bodies involved, but said there had been a number of near drownings.

“Clearly lives are at risk,” founding president of the DSAA Gary Blaschke said.

“Despite our best efforts in raising these concerns over the past five years with ministers from both the Howard and Rudd governments, our entreaties have fallen on deaf ears.”

Consequently the DSAA is in the process of launching an alert to all relevant State and Federal ministers of sport and health and national sporting organisations, warning them of the dangers of not having risk management in place.

“It’s not about money,” Mr Bradley said.

“It’s not surf and turf wars; it’s about having a standard of care across the board.”

The DSAA has 14 branches across all mainland states as well as New Zealand.

Their activities are unique in that they accept participants no matter what their particular disability is – all physically, psychologically and intellectually disabled people are welcome.



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