Children who are blind or have low vision from across the Hunter and Central Coast descended on Newcastle’s Blacksmiths Beach on Wednesday, January 22 for a day of fun in the surf.
Organised by Vision Australia, the children were given a chance to learn to surf under the guidance of qualified surfing instructors and legally blind surfing world champion Matt Formston, before taking in a special presentation to learn more about marine life and the coastal environment.
Blind Sports Australia was also involved on the day, providing attendees with a chance to try out beach cricket and a range of other sporting activities.
Caption: Vision Australia client Dominic was all smiles at the surf day.
Jordan Ashby, from Vision Australia Hunter and Central Coast, said the Surf Day was a great way to open the typical summer pastime of a day at the beach to children who are blind or have low vision.
“There’s no reason kids who are blind or have low vision can’t surf or spend time at the beach and our Surf Day is a great way for us to introduce them to the beach and surfing in a safe and supportive environment,” Jordan said.
“The day is about helping them build their confidence in and around the water, as well as learning about beach safety. Hopefully the kids can come away from the day feeling the beach is something that isn’t off limits to them just because they’re blind or have low vision,” he said.
Jordan said Vision Australia and the participants were also extremely grateful for a contribution from Surfing Australia through their Surf For Life campaign, which helped cover operating costs on the day.
"Surfing Australia provided us with funds to go towards hiring specialist surf instructors on the day, which played a big part in the day going ahead. Having the instructors their meant the kids got the best possible experience and we're really appreciative of the support from Surfing Australia."
Jordan also said having Matt Formston involved in the day also helps participating children understand that living with blindness or low vision is no barrier to following their dreams.
“Unfortunately, there’s still plenty of misconceptions about what people who are blind or have low vision are capable of and that can often be a barrier to children pursuing their goals.
“Matt is great example that people who are blind or have low vision are more than capable of living the life they choose. Hopefully by giving our clients the chance to meet somebody him they’ll be able to take away the confidence to pursue whatever they want in life.”
Find out about the wide range of supports Vision Australia offers for children who are blind or have low vision and their families here.