Surfing day set to draw record crowd

Let's go surfing: Disabled Surfers Association South West patron Kevin Merifield, Association president Ant Pursell and vice-president Paul Hashman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Let's go surfing: Disabled Surfers Association South West patron Kevin Merifield, Association president Ant Pursell and vice-president Paul Hashman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

The region's Disabled Surfers Association branch is expecting a record turnout for the upcoming 'Let's Go Surfing Day' on Saturday, January 18.

Now in its 12th year, the seasonal event is one of four that aims to give those with disabilities the opportunity to have a safe and dignified surfing experience.

Disabled Surfers Association South West president Ant Pursell said the event drew some 241 participants this time last year, a number he anticipated would be far greater in 2020.

"We tend to get some good numbers in January," he said.

"We're always desperate for volunteers - the more we can get, the better.

"The whole point is just to get people in the water."

The event is all-inclusive and, for many, the first opportunity participants have had to get in the ocean.

"We get people coming from across the South West," Mr Pursell said.

"We a girl from Pemberton that comes every year - without fail.

"For many of these people, this is the first time they've been able to go out surfing - even just get in the water.

"They just have the time of their lives.

"It's one thing to get them in the water and having a good time, but it's also about teaching people that disabled people are just like anyone else."

Mr Pursell said the day was also an opportunity for volunteers to give parents and carers much-needed respite.

"A lot of the time, the parents just do it all," he said.

"To give them just half an hour off, to give them a breather - that's important.

"It is 24/7, it's non-stop for them.

"One of our sayings is putting smiles on diles - and that's what we do.

"A lot of our participants have formed really genuine friendships, too."

Newly-appointed South West patron and surfer Kevin Merifield said he was proud to be part of the initiative, which goes above and beyond to put smiles on diles.

"To see the smiles on their faces - it's fantastic," he said.

"The Association does such a wonderful job, and the number of volunteers that arrive to help is incredible to see, too.

"There are a lot of really genuine people out there who just want to help."

The event begins on January 18 from 9am at Bunker Bay in Dunsborough, with surfing gear provided.

Mr Pursell encouraged those that wish to volunteer to come along on the day.