Getting back in the water | Guest Blogger Suzanne Edwards

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on February 22, 2019 # Mobility, Adaptive Sports

Before my accident in 2011, surfing was a huge part of my life and something that I had loved since I was a child. After I left school, I had started to follow a path that kept me near the beaches in Cornwall (south-west UK) and allowed me to surf when I wasn’t studying or working. On the night that changed my life forever, I had been in Morocco teaching people to surf when the railing of a balcony I was standing on broke. I fell 30 feet and fractured my spine at T8-9, leaving me with a complete spinal cord injury.

After that, I couldn’t even contemplate going to a beach, let alone ever getting back in the water. Beaches and sand are notoriously difficult for wheelchairs, and I was convinced that not being able to surf in the same way as before my accident would be too traumatic.

Fast forward 5 years and with a lot of support and encouragement from my family, I decided it was time to give it a go. On a very quiet day in September 2017 while on a family holiday, I went back into the sea. It wasn’t the beautiful, life-changing moment that you see in movies - it was freezing cold, not very elegant, and I needed a lot of help. But, I caught three small waves and it reminded me of why I had loved surfing so much. If you want proof of just how many times I wiped out and had to try and get back on the board, you can watch the video I made here.

Just over a year later, I joined Team England and headed out to La Jolla, California for the World Adaptive Surf Championships. I hadn’t had much of a chance to practice since the year before but had been assured that the competition is more about participation and having a great time. I was so apprehensive about going along and competing, but my nerves disappeared as soon as I arrived when I saw just how many incredible people from all walks of life make up the adaptive surf community.

The competition itself, whilst obviously important, took a backseat to the awesome vibe in La Jolla that week. I learned so much, made friends with people from all over the world and even managed to win a bronze medal for Team England! There are six classifications, so it caters to a huge range of disabilities - amputees that stand up on the board, people on sit skis, two prone categories, including one for those that need assistance with paddling, and a category for people with visual impairments.

I took over the Reeve Foundation Instagram stories while I was there, so you can check out some of my journeys by clicking here.

Adaptive surfing is such an inclusive sport and I am so excited to continue to improve as a surfer and support the community in any way I can. Hopefully, it can become a Paralympic sport in the future, but until that happens, there are more and more Adaptive Surfing competitions and events popping up all over the world. I highly recommend going along to one, even just as a spectator - the atmosphere is amazing and it will inspire you to want to have a go!

You can read much more about Adaptive Surfing and how to get involved on the ISA website or by joining their Facebook group.

You can find Suzanne on Reeve Connect answering questions about travel and adaptive surfing.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.