Adaptive Surf in Italy: URKELL X SURFORALL
"Our goal is to give people with various types of disabilities the happiness and smile of enjoying the marine environment and experiencing the wonderful sensation of surfing on waves. Just as it has been happening in most of Europe and the world for some time now."
These are the words of Andrea Alari, founder of SurForAll, to describe in a few lines the purpose of the initiative. Let's start by describing what adaptive surfing is and the recognized benefits that this activity brings to those who practice it and to those who make it possible and accessible to everyone. Adaptive surfing is a mode of surfing designed for people with disabilities. It involves the use of specialized equipment and techniques to enable people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to participate in this sport safely and enjoyably. The goal is to make surfing accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities, and to promote inclusion and physical activity for all individuals.
"We want to give all children and people with any form of disability the vibrations and joy that we feel every time we catch a wave."
Adaptive surfers use specialized boards and tools that help them face the waves and enjoy the thrill of riding them. The boards are designed with wider and flatter bottoms, the straps are adjustable to help with stability and balance, specialized wetsuits, manual paddles, and other tools are used to make the experience as satisfying as possible for those who practice it.
The story of SurForAll begins in Fuerteventura in 2011, where Andrea moved to work and get closer to the world of surfing with a 360-degree approach. In 2014, he encountered a surf school called Fuerte Tribù Club Deportivo and thanks to it, Andrea had the opportunity to approach adaptive surfing, an activity aimed at all people (children, young people, adults, and the elderly) with any type of motor, psychological, or mental disability, which is used as a tool for care and therapy. Surfing a wave, big or small, being in the water with your board waiting for the right moment, are sensations that everyone should experience at least once in their life, and it is from this conviction that his motto arises: "The surfer with the biggest smile always wins". Andrea actively collaborated in this project as a volunteer, helping instructors and participants during the days and events organized in all necessary tasks (beach cleaning, athlete change assistance, transport of materials, and active lessons in the water).
After returning to Italy, he decided to launch a project on adaptive surfing, hoping to bring out and give visibility to this beautiful discipline also in our country. From this objective, various initiatives were born to spread the message related to adaptive surfing and the organization of open days and courses to train new adaptive surfing instructors in Italy.
On the weekend of May 7th/8th, 2022, the first historic ACSI "ADAPTIVE" INSTRUCTOR course was held in Versilia. Thanks to the valuable collaboration with asd SURFORALL, Acsi Surfing has developed a teaching method aimed at all those instructors who intend to dedicate themselves with passion, seriousness, and competence to the world of adaptive surfing.
During the summer of 2022, with the patronage of the Municipality of Forte dei Marmi and with the organization of A.B.C. ONLUS, at the "ALLE BOE" beach establishment in Forte dei Marmi, teaching days (open days) dedicated to adaptive surfing will be held every Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm until September.
The benefits of adaptive surfing are numerous, both for the individuals who practice it and for the surfing community as a whole. For adaptive surfers, this sport provides a sense of freedom, physical activity, and a new way to experience the ocean. It helps to strengthen confidence, strength, and independence and can be a great way to meet new people and make new friends. For the surfing community at large, adaptive surfing helps to break down barriers and promote a more open and inclusive culture: by allowing people with disabilities to participate in this sport, it contributes to challenging deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes and providing new opportunities for outdoor physical activity. Adaptive surfing is still in its early stages, but it is quickly gaining popularity and recognition as a valuable and beneficial activity from every perspective. With the help of volunteers and organizations like SurfForAll, adaptive surfers are receiving the support they need to access the sea and enjoy the thrill of the waves fully. And with the continued growth of this sport, it is likely that an even greater number of people with disabilities will have the opportunity to experience the joys and benefits associated with this practice. According to various scientific research and psychological studies, water sports can provide many benefits to people with disabilities, including:
- Improvement of physical health: water activities can help improve physical fitness, flexibility, balance, and coordination, as well as providing low-impact exercise that is less likely to cause pain or injury.
- Increased socialization: participation in water sports can help connect with others, reduce a sense of isolation, and improve overall well-being.
- Increased self-esteem: water activities can help people with disabilities develop a sense of self-realization and pride, which can benefit their self-esteem and confidence.
- Reduction of stress and anxiety: water can have a calming effect, and participation in water sports can provide a sense of escape from the challenges of daily life, contributing to reducing stress and anxiety.
- Improved cognitive functions: Some studies have shown that water activities can improve cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving ability.
In summary, water sports can offer numerous physical, social, emotional, and cognitive benefits, making them an excellent form of recreation and therapy.
"Una cosa possibile"
In addition to initiatives related to the promotion of adaptive surfing, in July 2021, Andrea created a valuable tool for children aimed at introducing them to the delicate topic of inclusion. An important starting point for the design of educational paths aimed at promoting the uniqueness of everyone, equal opportunities, and accessibility. Respect for nature and the promotion of sports activities will be both the means and the purpose of these paths.
"Una cosa possibile" is a children's illustrated book that addresses the theme of social inclusion through the world of animals. The variety of each character is enhanced by their discovery of surfing.
The author is Davide Colla, who deals with environmental education and sustainable consumption by conducting workshops and educational outings with schools. His love for the sea and illustrated children's books led him to publish "Un tuffo nel mare" in 2017. Surfing as a way of life and the desire to give everyone equal opportunities allowed him to meet Andrea Alari and the birth of this project.
The illustrations and graphic design are by Marco Rizzi, a Biella-based artist, illustrator of children's books and more. A street musician by passion, he travels the world in search of inspiration for his drawings. After studying at the International School of Comics in Turin, he became a freelance illustrator, turning his passion into a job, with the hope of inspiring the readers of his works to believe in themselves and to achieve their own dreams.
"Una Cosa Possibile" is a self-published book. To reinforce the themes of environmental sustainability and inclusion, the printing was done on recycled paper, and for every copy sold, one euro will be donated to charities that focus on these issues.
The partnership between Urkell and SurForAll is designed with the aim of promoting and supporting each other. Our organizations can work together to promote the discipline of adaptive surfing and make the sport more accessible to everyone. The collaboration aims to achieve a mutual exchange of visibility and support for respective initiatives and projects. Thanks to this synergy, it is possible to reach a wider audience and work together to promote sustainability and inclusion through sports. Additionally, it will create a stronger network of support and collaboration where experiences and ideas will be shared, with the goal of creating a positive impact on society and the environment around us.
In summary, the partnership between Urkell and Surforall represents an example of how organizations can join forces to promote positive social impact through sports and responsible fashion. In this way, we can work together to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for everyone.
Urkell X SurForAll
Una Cosa Possibile
Urkell Journal Team