Severely disabled children enjoy the freedom of the waves at charity surf event in Watergate Bay

A 12-year old girl who was unable to use any of her four limbs or talk won an award for outstanding courage at a charity surf event in Watergate Bay, Cornwall, on Sunday.

Alex Cooper-Barns, from Eastleigh  in Hampshire, has Athetoid Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, was presented with the special award at the Summer Surf Challenge, a free surfing event for disabled people organised by The Wave Project.

Her mum Charlene Cooper said it was amazing to see as Alex has been experiencing a tough time in school.

She said: “It just makes the world of difference, she’s been quite sullen recently, but to see the smile on her face today, it’s just amazing.  She’s been having a tough time at school and surfing offers an emotional respite for her, the impact is huge.”

Sporting a huge smile, Alex was presented with a trophy for her award by Nick Robinson, an employee of MS-Amlin PLc, which sponsored the event.

Alex was one of 160 people with a range of disabilities that took part in the event at Watergate Bay, Cornwall, this weekend.

10-year old Dorothy Kenderdine, from Ivybridge in South Devon, was another child who overcame her fear of the water to catch her first wave.

Dorothy, who only has the use one arm, also won an award for her courage.

Mum Sue Kenderdine said: “She had the most amazing time surfing.  Her surf coach and the volunteers were so fantastic and understanding.  We can’t believe she was able to stand up on the board – her Cerebral Palsy affects her left arm and can really affect her balance so for her to be able to stand up while surfing was a huge achievement for her.”

Wave Project surf coordinator Holly Sayce, who worked with Dorothy, said; “It was fantastic to see Dorothy go from nervous and unsure at the water’s edge to absolutely loving the freedom of the water in a matter of moments.”

In all, 160 brave children and adults with disabilities and complex needs took part, making it the charity’s biggest ever Summer Surf Challenge event.

Participants ranged in age from 5 to 70, and came specially for the event from locations across the UK, including Hampshire, North Yorkshire and Wales.

Firefighters from Cornwall Fire Service joined over 70 volunteers to support the participants.

They manned the charity’s specially adapted surf boards to support children and adults with severely complex disabilities, and ran one-to-one surf taster sessions on training boards for more able participants.

Wave Project CEO Joe Taylor commented: “This was officially the UK’s biggest free disability surf event and the largest Summer Surf Challenge event ever held.

“We are so grateful to the community for supporting this event once again, from volunteers joining us from across the country to the team at the Watergate Bay Hotel who supported us again this year.

“Our fantastic team of ambassadors also came out in full force and were helping so many of our participants in and out of the waves  – they stayed on the beach all afternoon and continued running sessions across both days. It was so lovely to see.”