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Sophie, the nine-year-old surfer with cerebral palsy

A GOOD TIME FOR ALL: Helping hands ensure Sophie Hopson gets to enjoy the feeling of surfing at Maroochydore Beach.
A GOOD TIME FOR ALL: Helping hands ensure Sophie Hopson gets to enjoy the feeling of surfing at Maroochydore Beach. Helga Dalla

NOTHING stops nine-year-old Sophie Hopson and with an organisation such as the Sunshine Coast branch of the Disabled Surfers Association of Australia there to support her, she can ride the waves at Maroochydore and experience the feeling only a surfer knows.

Sophie has cerebral palsy - a physical disability that affects movement and posture - meaning she relies heavily on a wheelchair, but she doesn't let that hold her back.

She describes her chair as pretty special, pointing out it can be specially adapted for activities such as skiing.

She has done that too, but the sport she really loves is surfing.

"I've been surfing about six times now," she said.

"I'm not a super sports person normally but surfing just makes me feel free. I love the freedom it gives."

The activity clearly brings joy to all involved, keeping the volunteers and surfers coming back.

PITCHING IN: Jay Jay (left) with dad Jason O’Pray (centre) and Tim Byrne are ready to help Sophie Hopson with her lesson.
PITCHING IN: Jay Jay (left) with dad Jason O’Pray (centre) and Tim Byrne are ready to help Sophie Hopson with her lesson. Erica Henderson

Disabled Surfing Association president Tim Byrne said between 50 and 200 helpers had signed on and they support between 30 and 50 surfers.

"We certainly have good support with our large numbers of volunteers - I think surfers understand how important this is to those who can't do it unassisted," he said.

"We always welcome new volunteers.

"We have a real mix of people - kids from local schools, local surfers and even non-surfers. There are jobs for everyone."

No special skills are required to become a volunteer, as the less experienced are teamed up with the more experienced.

The organisation provides training to volunteers annually.

"The community support we receive from the Sunshine Coast Council, the Maroochydore RSL and businesses like Ausmar Homes allows us to provide these opportunities for the surfer and volunteers," Mr Byrne said.

Mother and son volunteer team members Josh and Judy Forbes both share a love of the ocean.

Josh said he started helping six years ago with his brother Ben.

"As surfers we appreciate that feeling, so I guess it's just nice to spare a couple of hours to give some joy to someone else," he said.

"We really enjoy it and the surfers love it and even the parents on the beach are happy - it's a real good feeling."

Topics:  cerebral palsy disabled surfers association editors picks surfing


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