Surf’s up

Our pho­tog­ra­pher takes you in­side a spe­cial surf school teach­ing peo­ple that a dis­abil­ity shouldn’t stop you be­ing at one with the ocean

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - HARRY & MEGHAN -

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.

Pic­tures: Peter Lorimer

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.

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