Surfing dream a reality for paraplegic – Western Cape | IOL Beta

Surfing dream a reality for paraplegic



  / 02 October 2015 at 10:18am


Cape Town – After losing the use of his legs 10 years ago, Daniel Nel has finally returned to his first love – venturing into the sea with his surfboard. A motorcycle crash left Nel paralysed from the waist down and unable to surf – something he used to do regularly before his accident in 2005. Shivering in the cold Blouberg water, but filled with joy, Nel said: “I feel like Mother Nature has welcomed me home with a big hug. “I have been away for so many years and it felt good to be back. “I’ve be driving to the beach every week to watch other people enjoying the water and I kept wishing that I could go back. “I knew it was possible but I didn’t know how or when it would happen,” Nel said.

Surfing dream a reality for paraplegic – Western Cape | IOL Beta

It would be the Cape Town Surf School that answered his prayers.

“When Bianca Köhn, co-owner of the school approached me about experimenting with a new surfboard, I immediately grabbed at the opportunity and decided it would be an excellent challenge,” Nel said.

Köhn beamed as Nel was helped from his wheelchair onto the surfboard.

“It’s such an emotional feeling seeing him getting out of his wheelchair and into the ocean, onto a surfboard. It’s inspiring and has really touched all our lives in such a special way.”

Nel’s passion for surfing, even in the face of adversity, has inspired the school’s co-owners to design and develop a surfboard he and other paraplegics can use.

Graham Warren, co-owner of the school, said the new board would support Nel’s legs – because he was unable to control them – with “two handles so he would be able to hold onto the board”.

“Now, he is surfing under supervision; with his new board he’ll be able to go out on his own.”

Surf instructor Toby Joker, who helped Nel onto the board, said: “There is a lot to consider when you are dealing with a paraplegic. We treat him as a newcomer in the water. We have to build a relationship and trust with him because there is a possibility of drowning.

“It was a difficult process because he is using his upper body to surf and he gets tired quicker than other surfers.”

The board for paraplegics is not yet fully developed, but it is hoped that the board would be available before the end of the year.

Cape Argus

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