Ian Picton knows that it sounds corny but nothing makes him happier than putting ‘’smiles on the dials’’ of people with disabilities.
The Disabled Surfing Association (DSA) president was a very happy man on Saturday.
Mr Picton and 140 fellow DSA volunteers, including students from St Marys, Keira HS and TIGS, ran a surf day at Thirroul Beach which enabled people with disabilities to enjoy a beach experience that most of us take for granted.
Almost 30 participants enjoyed the thrill of being in the surf, including catching a wave on a surfboard to the shore.
And there were plenty of smiling faces to be seen on the day as participants enjoyed an experience many only experience once a year, if at all.
One of the biggest smiles belonged to 15-year-old Jack Clewely. The Bellambi teenager has cerebral palsy, but is a regular attendee at DSA surf days.
‘’When Jack is in his chair he hardly moves his arms but look at him now,’’ Mr Picton said as he pointed to Jack out in the water.
‘’Check him out moving his arms and look how excited he is, you can’t wipe the smile off his face.’’
Jack’s support worker from Interchange, James Brooks agreed, adding ‘’Jack was at his best in the water’’.
‘’This is one of his favourite days of the year. He absolutely loves it,’’ Mr Brooks said.
This is the 26th year straight that the South Coast DSA branch is running surf days. A highlight is its ‘’perfect safety record’’ due in no small part to specially designed wheel chairs that enable beach transport, special coloured singlets that signify specific roles for volunteers, tents for coverage, and special surfboards for participants.
The IMB Bank recently awarded the DSA a grant of $14,250 to upgrade equipment in order to maintain its perfect safety record.
The usual $10 charge for participants was scrapped on Saturday. Northern Districts AFL Club, Crust Pizza Thirroul and local surf shops donated money to run the event. Details at http://disabledsurfers.org/nsw/south-coast- branch/