GALLERY: Disabled surfers dive into summer

People with disabilities felt the thrilling freedom of ocean swimming at the weekend as the South Coast Disabled Surfers Association re-grouped for the summer.

The event, at Thirroul Beach on Saturday, heralded the return of the association's specialist beach wheelchairs and the "surf sock" - a sleeping bag-style wetsuit with four sets of handles. The sock allows people who can't walk to sit inside and be dunked in and out of the water by a team of helpers.

Tom Walsh, of Engadine, was one of the volunteers who helped participants into the water.

He said the DSA community was very excited in the lead-up to a new season, and volunteers fed off that excitement.

"We get a buzz out of it - I get more out of it than the participants," Mr Walsh said.

"Everyone's the same when they're in the water."

The group was due to go surfing, but instead went swimming because of unsuitable conditions.

Mr Walsh and his family joined the association seven years ago in support of his daughter Sarah, who has a prosthetic leg and is a hopeful for the 2016 Paralympics in the 100 metre and 200 metre sprint events.

Ms Walsh, 14, credits the DSA with teaching her to surf.

"When I started I didn't want to go in the water at all, I was scared," she said.

"It's built my confidence."

The DSA's operation got a $15,000 boost earlier this year, raised at the Police Charity Ball in Wollongong on July 27.

Disabled Surfers South Coast branch secretary Jim Bradley welcomed the donation, which helped to put "smiles on dials".

"People forget that disabled people just don't have the opportunity that able people have to just come to a beach," he said.

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