By Toby Millage
The outstanding benefits of surfing for disabilities and my journey of discovery
I grew up here, so I took the sea and its positive energies for granted. The early years were a blur of saltwater, booze, lost memories and the need for rock n roll, but as I write this article, I look back at pivotal points in my life.
During difficult times – I would go surfing. Frustrating moments – I would go surfing. For proper connections with friends and family – we go surfing. Living abroad in cities and college, my thirst to surf quadrupled and when I found it, it absolutely filled me with joy and elation to the next level!
Simply put, when I surf, I am happier and less stressed. It is like the sea, the force, the unpredictability of nature presses my reset button. It turns out this is what our souls yearn for and cannot live without.
Previously I’d never really joined the dots for therapy but connecting with Nuno Vitorino at Surf Adaptado seven years ago was a moment. Initially, when we ran an event under the Algarve Surf School Association for Sustainable Surf Tourism, I wanted to find a way for the proceeds to go to a charitable surfing body and came across the charity I previously didn’t know existed.
Nuno’s story is one of inspiration. Previously as a kid, he was into surfing, but after a devastating accident at 18, he lost the use of his lower body. Incredibly, the moment he got his wheels, he was more determined than ever and became part of a group that created the first European Surf Adaptive Association. His drive is infectious, his stoke and thankfulness are overwhelming.
It made me look at the scene much closer. Adaptive surfing is not simply for those who use a wheelchair. It encompasses many disabilities including cerebral palsy, blindness, amputations, autism, Down’s syndrome and mental health disorders. After many conversations, I kept hearing the same accounts of how surfing almost defied medicine and science. The ocean and the dynamic of riding waves breaks barriers of fear, opens blocked thought and mentally heals to a level previously deemed impossible.
Soon after I insisted that we come together and run the Algarve leg of their annual tours here in Lagos. The community support for their whole team was instant. Marina Club Resort Lagos Hotel, Nuno Maximiano at Grupo Adega da Marina offering evening meals, Oliva Pizzaria offering the beach-day lunch.
I can safely say this was the most rewarding day of the year and we can’t wait until we can find a date again in the not too distant future.
To note: if you know anyone to whom this event would be appealing don’t hesitate to make contact either with me or direct to Nuno and the Association. The more demand for these, the more often they could happen. Also, any donations go towards specialised equipment and expenses for the fantastic volunteers.
Photos © phaze photography