Inspiring Lives Through Sports, Friendships & The Ocean
Coastal Crusaders is a Community Interest Company which aims to educate, create social environments, integration and advancements to levels of health, fitness and social interactivity. Coastal Crusaders is the vision of legendary big wave surfer Tom Butler, and is championed by Adam Griffiths & Great Western Beach. Tom, along with his incredible Coastal Crusaders team run regular sessions at Great Western, and are having such a positive impact on those they’re helping.
The Seated Surfer Project
Over the winter of 2023, Coastal Crusaders built two adaptive surfboards. Using two 12 ft Stand Up Paddle Boards, Mounted with fibreglass Race Car Bucket Seats! This project will allow people with mobility or learning challenges the chance to enjoy surfing in a more reclined, supported, seated position. With the support of Coastal Crusaders staff and volunteers, we deliver events across three geographical areas of Cornwall, Newquay, Hayle, and Bude over June, July, August and September.
Seated Surfboard event days will be delivered on Saturdays, Sundays and mid-week. The McPike-Zimma Foundation & Sport England has kindly supported this pilot project.
Building the boards, R & D, seated positions
We worked with local craftsman Rory Martin who cut into the boards to fix the runners for the seats to be attached to, the runners and fixing points attach the base of the seats to the boards, and we can move the seats backwards and forwards from the midpoint. Depending on the rider’s weight, how many people are riding the board, the conditions on the day, the rider’s ability, are factors that will depend on
where the seats are positioned. We can also move the seat from rider feedback and staff observations during the session. Also attached along the sides, front and back of the boards are rubber and webbed straps, so we can hold on and manoeuvre the board with greater control, helping the staff, volunteers and riders have a smoother session!
Our vision for our day events is to have family members, friends and supporters all enjoying a day at the beach together, surfing, enjoying water sports and the surrounding areas in a safer, more supported way, offering chances for some participants to connect with the ocean for the first time!
Allowing family-to-family support, connecting families and individuals who have been through similar trauma or life-changing events or have children or adults in their lives sharing the same challenges disabilities or illness. Learning together, supporting one another, talking, relaxing on the beach, eating food, and having a coffee at the beach, has as profound a benefit as riding the board in!
The project so far
What we didn’t expect so soon into the project was a few participants telling us halfway through the session to lose the seat altogether, “I want to be closer to the water”. These orders came from fifty-five-year-old Wolfy, from the Newquay Surf Veterans CIC group. Wolfy had just said he’d been out of the water from surfing for fourteen years until now!
Seventy-nine-year-old Dave, a right leg amputee, also pushed all the coaches to their limits demanding progressive rides and was a little angry about the 0.5 ft wave size that day! Wanting bigger waves, more challenge and speed!
The fantastic sunshine and friendly smaller summer waves we’ve been working in during June have been a blessing for the start of this project as, we build up confidence using our new equipment. The last two sessions were more challenging with 4 ft + sized waves, participants loved the bigger waves and the moment of popping over the white water en route further out, seated and eyes more protected by our visors attached to the helmets!
Thank you to Great Western Beach in Newquay, an incredible, inclusive, accessible and fun venue for our Mid-Cornwall project. The staff always go above and beyond and are super friendly, and the beach’s location offers natural protection from bigger waves and prevailing less favourable wind.
Participant numbers and demographics
We’ve delivered 8 sessions, so far. Reaching and working with 51 people. 22 participants with challenges and 29 participants that comprise of supporters or family members. We encourage and want friends or family to all ride and get stoked together!
Out of the 51 people involved in the project so far, 23 have been male and 28 females. The ages of participation have been very diverse as well; with the youngest 13 and our two eldest riders 79! From the less mobile participants (22), so far, 9 have been aged over 50, 2 aged between 30 – 50 and 11 participants aged under 30! The challenges that some of our seated surfers live with are diverse. Over these first few sessions, we have worked with and been inspired by people living with, Cerebral Palsy, Dystonia, Autism, Amputees, Stroke Survivors, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, Mental Health, Arthritis, Diabetes, and Asthma, among other challenges; these people live with and overcome.
Another great inclusion to the project is the attendance and contribution of Aiden Coxhead and Louis Sutton (pictured below), two longtime Coastal Crusaders students who live with Autism and other daily challenges. They have become qualified surf coaches and lifesavers under the training and mentorship
of Coastal Crusaders. They are now volunteering their skills and experience, helping others enjoy the waves during seated surfing.
What we have learnt, Adaptions and What’s Next
We have re-strengthened the chairs at the base and are currently fitting foam padding under the small space between the board deck and the seat’s bottom. We aim to stop any flexing in the middle point of the seat as riders are seated and as staff and volunteers hold the seat for steering and pushing through waves.
The foam padding underneath the main seat can also double up as a smaller seat. We used this method during our “Lad and Dad session.” Both young boys have involuntary movements, so we agreed with the parents it was safest if the boys
sat on their dad’s lap. Feedback from the dads was that a small seat in front of the main seat would mean more space and comfort for the two riders.
We have constantly been improving and understanding all the methods needed to deliver seated surfing safely. Ranging from setting up equipment smarter, changing seat positions, improving our lifting techniques from beach wheelchair to surfboard, steering and moving in the ocean, what waves not to take, and considerations around parking and accessing the beach, what lesson delivery is possible within our event times and the energy levels of participants.
In July, we will take the project south to the town of Hayle, using the bluff area for delivery; kindly, Hayle Surf Life Saving Club will allow us to use some of their facilities for our events.
We will continue to choose participants from diverse and underrepresented population groups.
Thank you for reading and the biggest thank you to all participants so far, overcoming many hurdles and bringing huge amounts of desire and positivity to your sessions!
Coastal Crusaders X