strength, endurance, and energy. Over the years, Wavegarden’s engineers, architects and designers have worked tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of their technology is accessible and safe for all. Adaptive surfers like Aitor “Gallo” Francesena, who is blind, Iñigo Hermoso and Urtzi Urrutia with Down syndrome, and amputees Eric Dargent and Benoit Moreau have surfed at Wavegarden’s headquarters and validate the quality of the waves and safety of the lagoon.

Riding waves

Beyond the Wavegarden’s private demo centre, considerable progress is being made at the public Wavegarden facilities in the UK and Australia. Opening last October, The Wave Bristol became the world’s first public Wavegarden Cove. Inclusion is a fundamental value of the organisation and founder Nick Hounsfield made sure that the plans catered for people with disabilities - from access through to amenities and tuition. Easy access ramps, dedicated changing rooms and fully trained coaches make it possible for everyone, regardless of ability or experience, to get in the water and ride waves.

The slow moving knee-high waves in the Bay areas of the Wavegarden Cove have seen thousands of beginners catch their first rides, plenty of which have been adaptive surfers. Louis Sutton, a 19-year-old who has autism, cerebral atrophy, cerebral palsy, and dyspraxia, surfs the zone for experts with flare and style. The positive effects on Louis’ physical and mental state have been so profound that his physiotherapist now recommends surfing as part of his official treatment. Hounsfield’s desire to see a venue, which is accessible to all, is paying off and on October 3 The Wave Bristol showcased some top athletes during the English Adaptive Surfing Open. However, this was not the first adaptive surfing competition in a wave park. Back in 2019, the Welsh Adaptive Surf Championships bought together 24 surfers from 13


different countries at Adventure Parc Snowdonia in North Wales.

In the southern Hemisphere, Australia’s Ocean Heroes, a not-for -profit organisation based in Perth, has organised surf sessions for over 3000 children with autism. The objective of Ocean Heroes is to share the thrill and wonder of surfing to enable them to build self-belief in a supportive and fun environment. One recent initiative involved riding waves at URBNSURF Melbourne, the second public Wavegarden Cove, which opened in January 2020. “There’s a demographic of our society that miss out on going surfing through no fault of their own, although they are physically capable to do so,” noted Luke Hallam, co-founder of Ocean Heroes.

Surf therapy

Julie Baker attended the session at URBNSURF with her three autistic children. She finished the day with elated children and a strong appreciation for the controlled conditions and close supervision found in the Wavegarden Cove. “My children said it was much better than the beach because of the clear water and predictable conditions. The environment helped settle their nerves and anxiety, it was truly a perfect session.” The experience made such a strong imprint that Julie wrote a message to Adam Lamond, one of several key organisers. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, from a mother who is currently crying with joy in appreciation of a donation made by strangers that hugely impacts my gorgeous children.”

Some medical practitioners have been advocating the benefits of surfing for years. Dr Guillaume Barucq, based in the seaside town of Biarritz, France gained mainstream media attention when he became the first GP in the world to prescribe surfing as a treatment for certain chronic conditions. When he’s not insisting that his patients with conditions like cystic fibrosis, depression, back pain, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or cancer, hit the waves, the avant-garde doctor is frequently seen in the

lineup himself. According to Barucq, “Surfing helps you stay in shape, stabilise your weight, and reduce stress.”

Back at Wavegarden’s headquarters, Josema Odriozola,founder and CEO, is more than satisfied with the direction things are going. “I am proud of the work our team and our partners are doing to improve access for adaptive surfers. There are many organisations doing inspiring work in surf therapy and I am pleased to know that Wavegarden can play a key role in offering a safe and controlled environment for all surfers.”

In spite of the dilemmas currently facing the world, the good news is that work on new Wavegarden facilities in South Korea, Switzerland and Brazil continues to progress and each will be fitted with the latest features for adaptive surfers, while offering great waves for surfers of all experience levels.


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