Our photographer takes you inside a special surf school teaching people that a disability shouldn’t stop you being at one with the ocean
THEY are the adventure-loving kids who are all too familiar with the word “no”. No, you can’t do that. No, it’s too difficult. No we don’t have the facilities, you can just watch.
Unable to walk from birth, both Josh Brass and Matilda Chesterton have faced challenges that most other kids don’t even dream of.
But if someone asks them if they’ve ever ridden a wave, they will be able to answer with an emphatic “yes, and I was hooning”.
Josh, eight, and Matilda, six, were two of 12 people with a disability who took part in a Newcastle surf school run by double amputee Jade “Red” Wheatley, who lost his legs in a machinery accident 17 years ago.
Known as the Ossur Amputee Surf Day, the May 5 event at Nobbys Beach gave them the opportunity to learn the art of surfing with some helping hands. It turns out for Josh, however, that he didn’t need those hands.
“I could tell by the grin on his face that he meant to do it himself,” Joshua’s mother Abbi Brass, 33, said.
“The first time the instructor, Red, was behind him kicking. Then after that, he said ‘Josh, you’ve got this’.
“Then he did it himself. Josh did not need 500 volunteers around him.”
Josh has an enduring friendship with Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley, with whom he shares a condition called Sacral Ageniesis, a development abnormality.
Josh was born without kneecaps, a tail bone and a number of vertebrae.
He rode alongside Kurt Fearnley after the Paralympian competed in the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, and intends to be- come the next Kurt Fearnley or wheelchair tennis player Dylan Alcott. Western Sydney’s Matilda Chesterton suffers from Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency. Despite being born with a short femur, the bubbly girl was up to the challenge of what’s known as “adaptive surfing”. “Matilda just absolutely loved every bit of it,”
organiser, Mr Wheatley said.
“She’s a people person and quite the comedian. Matilda’s keen to keep pursuing surfing and wants to continue with lessons.”
Mr Wheatley said he has dedicated much of life to adaptive surfing. “Having experienced the benefits of the sport first hand, we wanted to introduce people with impairments to the health benefits that the mother ocean and surfing has to offer,” he said. “We also wanted to let people gather as a group, be active and to experience something new.”
Jade ‘Red’ Wheatley hasn’t let his accident stop him surfing.
John Crompton paddles for a wave during Ossur Amputee Surf Day at Newcastle’s Nobbys Beach.
Matilda Chesterton, 6, is guided onto a wave. Matilda suffers from Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency.
Thalia Standley discovered wipeouts were all part of the adaptive surfing experience.
Scott Edger enters the surf for the first time in 20 years.
Joshua Brass starts his surf lesson and, above, Joshua with Paralympian Kurt Fearnley.