Kerry Hoffman knows the feeling of freedom when riding a wave
The East coast of Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches. With pounding surf and safe, soft sand, they are there to be enjoyed by everyone; The Disabled Surfers Association is one organisation that's making sure that's possible.
Surfers are able to access the water using buoyancy wetsuits, specially designed amphibious chairs—which can be wheeled across the sand and into the water—and surf boards made to carry two people but it wouldn't be possible without support from the surf life savers, volunteer surfers and dedicated staff. When everyone pulls together, children and adults with any disability can have a safe surfing experience. What for? Because as any surfer will tell you, the feeling of freedom when riding a wave is second to none.
Kerry Hoffman is one of the volunteers in the Central Coast DSA branch. She is a lecturer in Nursing at the University of Newcastle and she is also a keen surfer who understands the energy of the water.
"I got involved by chance," says Kerry. "I saw an advertisement for the Central Coast Surfing for the Disabled day so I went along to see if I could help."
Kerry soon signed up for the volunteer training and now participates in up to four events a year.
"The first time you see someone catch a wave is amazing," she says. "Many of the surfers aren't able to communicate how much they are enjoying it, but their body language gives them away. It is great fun and immensely rewarding. Everyone is smiling by the end of the day."
No disability can prevent surfers from enjoying the water and Kerry has even taken quadriplegics into the waves.
"One memorable time was when I took a father into the water with his son. The father had been injured in an accident and lost the use of his arms and legs. I could see how difficult it was to even get down onto the sand and how much it meant to him to be in the water again with his little boy."
It is also a rewarding day for the carers as going to the beach is something they wouldn't normally be able to do.
"The disabled surfers might initially lack confidence in the water but we are able to go on the board with them or push them onto a wave," says Kerry.
Kerry's nursing skills are sometimes called upon when lifting surfers on to boards or managing a ventilator in the water, but the best skill she brings is a love for the ocean.
"It's great to be able to share the ocean with people who would otherwise miss out. Most volunteers recognise that value and keep coming back," she says. "It's immensely rewarding."