We speak with Melissa Roughley, secretary of the hastings branch of the disabled surfing association.
Tell us a bit about you and your family …
Jeff and I originally come from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. We moved to Port Macquarie in November 1998 to give our son Kieran, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a better chance at life.
The air quality in Port Macquarie was a lot cleaner than the Sydney air, especially where we were living at the time, which was on a busy road leading to Mascot airport. We could smell the fumes from the planes when they were refuelling – not to mention the fumes from all the trucks and cars. Kieran’s specialists thought it was a great move.
Our other son Aidan was born with Hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which caused frontal lobe damage, vision impairment, Cerebral Palsy and also a mild intellectual disability. Our 10 1/2 year old son Corey is healthy.
My husband Jeff works in Civil Construction, and up until last year I was working in disabilities in day programs with adults with intellectual disabilities. I really enjoyed my work, but I’m taking a break at the moment due to family commitments with my children.
Kieran has been in the Base Hospital about 3 times this year, with a 10 day stay at Sydney Children’s Hospital.
Then, the shunt Aidan has in his head to release fluid (so it doesn’t build up) stopped working in May. He had to be taken by air ambulance to Sydney Children’s to be operated on; then in August, he had an operation on both his feet.
All our children attend DSA. Aidan has been the most passionate, but Kieran will have a go occasionally and Corey started to get right into it last season.
Surfing is great for Aidan’s Cerebral Palsy (it helps strengthen muscles) and Kieran’s Cystic Fibrosis (salt air is great for lungs).
How did the Hastings branch of the Disabled Surfing Association become established?
As part of the ‘Little Ray of Sunshine Tour’, the DSA visited Port Macquarie on 4 November 2001 and held an event at Flynns beach.
The day provided a hands-on demonstration and coaching, with displays and a video trailer showing what the DSA was all about.
Jeff and I had heard about the ‘Little Ray of Sunshine Tour’ being held at Flynns Beach and decided to take our 3 children.
Aidan has always been a keen bodyboarder and surfer and we all love the beach, so we thought it would be great fun for the whole family.
On the day, DSA was looking for some keen locals to set up a branch in Port Macquarie and as there weren’t many activities for those with a disability to do at the time, we thought it would be a great way for people with a disability to have a chance at surfing.
For those that wish to or for some reason can’t, due to their disability, get on a surfboard, there’s a special beach wheel chair that can be used to take them in the water, so they don’t miss out on any of the fun.
Because we have 2 children with disabilities, my husband Jeff and I were keen to get involved, to help start a branch in Port Macquarie. So, along with a few other locals we formed the Hastings Branch – and haven’t looked back.
What is your position with the group now, and how long have you been involved in this capacity?
My position is Secretary – has been since DSA Hastings began 10 years ago. In the beginning of DSA Hastings I was the President for a few years, but because I was also doing the Secretarial position, I decided to step down from the President’s position and concentrate on just the one position.
What is the purpose/aim of the DSA?
The aim and purpose of the DSA is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by taking them into the water with trained volunteers for a surf. To help them gain self confidence in the skills of surfing, as well as to support and encourage self confidence in a social setting by having fun and socialising.
The DSA is uniquely Australian, with nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world.
What types of disabilities does the group cater for?
Anybody with any kind of disability of any age is welcome to come and enjoy the fun, for example Asthmatics, people with joint injuries, paraplegics and quadriplegics, people with an intellectual disability, vision and hearing impaired and people with incurable illnesses like my son, who has CF – just to name a few.
We use the latest modern surf technologies such as soft Malibu surfboards, wetsuits and ‘surf socks’ (our own invention). A surf sock is a wet suit but designed slightly differently, and it is not as tight fitting as a normal one. It is for those participants who suffer poor circulation as they get colder quicker while in the water, as opposed to other people.
DSA also has 2 amphibious beach wheel chairs to transport participants to and from the water. We also have swimming vests for participants to wear for their safety.
When, where and how often does the group meet?
DSA – Hastings holds surf days the 2nd Sunday of the month from October to April every year at the north end of Flynn’s beach, from 10am to 2pm, with a free BBQ lunch for all participants, carers and volunteers.
How does DSA-Hastings stay afloat financially?
The DSA is a not for profit organisation that relies on kind support and donations from local businesses in the Port Macquarie area. Without the help of our generous sponsors, who are shown on our mobile equipment trailer, we would not be able to continue to do what we do.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful volunteers. Without their dedication, DSA would not be able to take people with disabilities for a surf.
How can interested community members find out more information?
Visit the website: www.disabledsurfers.org or contact Melissa Roughley on 0437 812 541.
Thank you Melissa.