On a cloudy day at Coney Beach in Porthcawl, Wales, people we support and staff helped themselves to a bit of vitamin sea. The typically unpredictable great British summer led to the perfect conditions to catch some waves. Some were first time surfers, others were seasoned wave riders, but for everyone, there were smiles all round as this action-packed day became a roaring, rip curling success!

By popular demand, Walsingham Support set up a regular summer surf club – run by Karma Seas – for our services in Wales and the Midlands. Besides the obvious health benefits of surfing, the initiative was started to offer a great and different way to spend time outdoors; enjoying the natural environment and presenting a good outlet for stress and tension. Just ask any pro surfer! Amanda, Locality Manager, has attended every session with Gwilym, a person we support. She stresses how massive the achievement was for him: “Gwilym is normally a late riser but for this, he changed his sleeping pattern. He used to surf but hadn’t been in about 13 years. He rediscovered his love for the sport and as soon as he started, he wanted to go back.”

It wasn’t just an achievement for Gwilym though! “I’m quite fearful of the sea and fish. We supported each other in a way,” she added.

The art of surf is something that people have discovered all over the world. It has changed lives, formed friendships and communities and now, more than ever, there is growing evidence backing up its incredible effects. Not just fantastic core strength, the euphoria of riding a wave releases helpful chemicals in the brain. There’s nothing like it. We work to increase the quality of life and happiness of every person we support. Surfing certainly does this and is a truly great excuse to get closer to nature.

Those that don't participate in the water still participate in the day, creating an audience that adds greatly to the seaside atmosphere as they enjoy a day at the beach, motivating our surfers and helping make the days special for everyone. In short, they do what we do best: support!

Rob, who attended one time with Mark, a person we support said: “Mark loved it, I’ve worked with him for a year and I’ve never seen him laugh as much as he did that day.”

He continues: “It was really good, well-organised, and relaxed. Freezing cold though!”

The people we support have the right to choose how they want to be supported, the way they want to live and the things they want to do. Introducing them to new experiences is one reason why our services are as unique as the people we support. From reports from those who attended, a new passion had also arisen for many of the debutant surfers. But this surf club proves it isn’t all about the activity. It is about the social aspect as well, sharing laughs and forming memories – it simply wouldn’t be the same without anyone who attends. In or out of the water.

49% of people with learning disabilities would like to spend more time outside their house [Mencap, 2015]. This club is part of a range of activities that we planned, to celebrate Learning Disability Week this year. Learning Disability Week is an annual event that seeks to celebrate and involve people with learning disabilities into their local communities, as well as raise awareness of issues that often surround disabilities so that statistics like the one mentioned above can become a thing of the past. This year’s theme for Learning Disability Week is sport and inclusion. Sport is for everyone. A universal language that can break down barriers and show how much we all have in common.

Gwilym’s mum said: “It was amazing…The support provided and the facilities/gear on offer were extensive…This was a very good activity for people with disabilities given the level of support provided. It was very accessible. This was definitely one of Gwilym’s favourite activities of the year so far.”

A tremendous thank you to surf and wellbeing company, Karma Seas, who helped facilitate the event with their wave-riding expertise. We are currently working to try and get the surf club up and running for next year as well.