Bader Grant Recipient Oliver Vaughan-Jones has kindly written a great article about his experiences in adaptive surfing.
As you’ll see from Oliver’s report below, he has progressed extraordinary quickly in the sport going from adaptive surfing following a 10 year hiatus, to being selected to represent England in the World Championships just four years later. This extraordinary achievement is testimony to Oliver’s incredible determination to continue with a sport he loves despite suffering with a crippling neurological disease.
It’s wonderful to see so many sports, adapted to enable people who face physical or mental challenges which can make some other forms of a sport they love inaccessible, being added to the para category. Many of you may not have heard of knee surfing but here it is. And every bit as exhilarating, competitive and enjoyable – and definitely as challenging, check out Oliver’s amazing photographs! – as its precursor…
We were delighted to be able to support Oliver with a Bader Grant helping to enable him to take part in some of the Adaptive World Tour Events, and return to the ISA World Championships in December. With his commitment and strength of character he deserves to succeed.
Bader Grant Recipient Oliver is determined to reach the top and in order to do this needs to compete in as many events on the Adaptive World Surf Tour series as possible. The costs of travelling and accommodation when necessary to compete in all the events available is very high as you can imagine, and Oliver has now started a Crowdfunding Page to help him to raise the necessary funds. The link to this can be found at the bottom of this post.
Please do support Oliver if you can. He’s done so much to support himself and shown such determination to succeed despite the effects of his devastating illness that it would be a terrible shame if he was forced to stop now due to lack of funds. We believe he has the ability and the guts to get to the top and deserves support.
As I sit here at Croyde Bay overlooking some small breakers, I can’t imagine ever being in this position just four years or more ago.
I’m still learning my new adaptive approach to surfing, I got in the water again after over a decade hiatus due to a severe and a punishing neurological disease, it’s onset quite out of the blue in my mid 20s. In the many years, stuck in bed, care homes and hospital I never let go of the idea of surfing and sliding again on the snow. Overtime I started to see some improvement and with the addition of some good equipment in the form of a power chair, I managed to start travelling a little bit. Physically, I felt at the point where I could arrange a lesson in the sea with a surf instructor. That experience was amazing, and what I couldn’t believe, was how the feeling of trying to capture a wave again was not eroded at all, it came back instantly albeit now on my belly. However, I did really struggle that day with the pain and energy levels despite being fully assisted. It took another 18 months, in 2021, before I felt ready to get back in the water with a surf board.
It was here where I got my first two independent waves and the hook was in. I was going to try and find the way to surf no matter what. Overtime, I built up from being on my belly into some sort of knee position, mimicking as close to how I used to surf as possible. I would crawl over 45 minutes each way to try and get in across pebbles and Long Beaches and I often still do. I forget to mention, by now I had moved my life down to the coast so I could increase my chances and opportunity to get in the surf more.
In 2021, I was armed with this new knee style that I was working on and had found a chunky but short knee board for sale outside my local surf shop. I’d wanted to get to the artificial wave pool in Bristol and followed this up that December. On a freezing second session in that place, where just getting one wave would be a success, the owner of The Wave happened to be surfing also. He was and still is involved with Para Surfing (adaptive surfing in a competitive sense). We had a chat that day, I was amazed to find out that there were people doing this regularly and there was a ‘scene’. He extended an invite to come and take part in the English open the following summer. (I had actually seen this on YouTube over the years whilst laid out in bed. I thought it was just amazing, but never thought that I could take part.)
By July 2022 I had surfed a little bit more and decided to enter the contest. Much to my joy, I discovered the Para-knee surf division catagory, (due to illness or injury). After spending Years & Years crawling and balancing on my knees, imagine the feeling to find a sport that allows one to compete on them! I turned up to the event expecting maybe 10 or so surfers from around England. Firstly, I clocked an American accent and then a Spanish….the whole event was far bigger than I had anticipated, it was an international event! All these adaptive surfers from around the world had come to Bristol to compete in a world wide open, the buzz was electric.
Fast forward just a few months I found myself wheeling through London carrying my surfboard, preparing for a train to France to both get classified to compete as an international para knee surfer and enter my second surf contest. Both went well and it was there I was given the chance to represent England at the World Championships in California the following December.
Presently, I’m in my first full year as a para knee surfer, the kind support of Douglas Bader grant has meant that I can actually take part in some of the Adaptive world tour events and above all; return to the ISA world championships at the end of the year in California. I am focusing on a new technique and getting more surf miles under my belt so that I can aim for Spain, France and Wales and complete the European circuit of the World Tour! How amazing, I cannot wait and I can’t believe it. The grant has taken the severe pressure to fund the World champ event myself and allowed me to focus on more training and kit. But the interesting thing is how much I’m really enjoying para sport and how much having an aim to compete is really helping my well being, I knew sliding in waves again would be just amazing but to have this level of optimism in the future and goals in something I love doing is a new unexpected feeling.
So yes, the grant is about supporting competition but it’s also so much more…….the power of para sport.
Thank you Douglas Bader Foundation.
Bader Grant Recipient Oliver epitomises the spirit of the Bader Grant Scheme, which was set up to help people living with physical and mental challenges towards achieving personal goals. The Bader Grants Committee, headed by Keith Delderfield, meets (roughly) quarterly to discuss applications received during that time. Every application complying with the requirements laid out in the application form is considered and may be made by individuals or groups and cover a hugely diverse range of goals. Applicants will be kept updated throughout.
If you can dream it a Bader Grant can help you to achieve it! DBF
We are extremely grateful to Oliver for sharing his inspiring story. We love to hear from our successful applicants and hope that your stories also inspire others to apply for a Bader Grant to help them to achieve their own dreams. Please consider sending in your news and updates – we’d be delighted to hear from you.
For more information on the Bader Grant Scheme please follow the link or contact Keith Delderfield if you’d like to know more using the enquiry form link. (Please remember to select Bader Grants from the drop down menu.)
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