Welsh surfing project to feature on BBC One’s ‘Countryfile’


A collaborative project between the children’s charity Cerebra; the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and surfing charity, Surfability UK will feature in Sunday night’s Countryfile (May 29th) on BBC One.

The project team has designed a tandem surf board that will allow people with physical disabilities to hit the waves and surf.

Ben Clifford is the founder of Surfability UK – a surf school, based in Caswell Bay, Swansea that teaches people with learning, mental and physical disabilities to surf.

Last summer, Ben approached the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) to see if its teaching staff in the Extreme Sports Engineering course could help him with an idea.   Ben was teaching Kai Lewis - a teenager from Port Talbot with quadriplegic cerebral palsy to surf but he was unable to surf lying down - so he wanted to design a surf board with a seat on it.

The University has an excellent reputation for product design and is home to the Cerebra Innovation Centre – a partnership between UWTSD and the charity, Cerebra working to enhance the lives of children with neurological conditions.  The idea made its way to the CIC manager, Dr Ross Head, who quickly set about turning Ben’s idea into a reality.

Two of the staff at the Cerebra Innovation Centre are avid surfers so they relished the challenge of helping a child with cerebral palsy to surf too.  They secured some funding and set about designing and manufacturing a tandem surf board with an integrated supportive ‘bucket’ seat that can be used by disabled people whilst being controlled by a trained surf instructor.

The seat is able to slide backwards and forwards on the board to set the optimum balance point.  It is also set at a specific angle such that the surfer is held securely but is able to see where they are going and enjoy the ride.

The board has been shaped by Swansea-based shaper, Roger Cooper who was also instrumental in fine tuning the rocker line and outline of the 12ft long board so that it performs well.

This is the only board of its kind in the UK and was launched last summer, with Kai finally being able to take to the waves.  Since then, the unique surf board has been available for more disabled surfing enthusiast to use and earlier this month, the team from CIC and Surfability UK, travelled to Surf Snowdonia so that Tina Evans could have a go at surfing too.

Tina lives in Drefach in the Gwendraeth Valley and was diagnosed at the age of 16 with a neurological condition called Friedreich's Ataxia. The condition mainly affects balance and coordination and after a couple of years struggling with her balance has been in a wheelchair since the age of 21.

“I quickly realised it was the right thing to do as I was then free to get on with things from the chair instead of struggling on my feet,” says Tina.

“I try not to let my condition stop me from enjoying life and I get involved with anything possible, especially outdoor activities such as surfing, kayaking, cycling and skiing. Everyone has different abilities, but we're also the same, we're all human.

“Surfing on the new board was an amazing experience, I usually surf by lying on my stomach on a SUP board which is tiring for my arms and back, but with this new board I can fully enjoy the experience whilst riding high on top of the wave. I can't wait to try it again,” adds Tina.

Dr Ross Head, CIC Product Design Manager was equally as excited to see the surf board being used at Surf Snowdonia.  “My team and I spent an amazing day at Surf Snowdonia with Tina and Ben filming for Countryfile with Anita Rani. It was really exciting to be part of it and the board, Tina and Ben surfed perfectly on the wave there.”

He continued: “We are really proud that our innovative board works so well in a variety of wave conditions and has given access to the waves to so many people. Andy Ainscough, Managing Director of Surf Snowdonia, and his staff were amazing, they accommodated us so well, and Andy even got stuck in catching the board at the end of the wave!”

Andy was delighted to see the kit being tested in the park:  “What the guys have done here with this piece of kit is amazing, almost everyone in surfing has talked for ages about making it more inclusive and assessable to all, but by making this innovative surfboard they have allowed people who can't stand and surf themselves to now get that same thrill from the same elevated position as anyone else does when riding waves. It was great that they got to come up from the South Wales to North Wales and carry out some testing on our inland waves.”

Ben Clifford, from Surfability UK added: "It has been great for Surfability UK to work with Cerebra and Surf Snowdonia. The board works so well and the artificial wave in Snowdonia gave us a chance to test it in a very controlled environment. I’d urge anyone who is interested in using the board in the ocean at Caswell Bay Gower or at Surf Snowdonia please get in touch via our website www.surfabilityukcic.org"

The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) is a bespoke product design service offered by national charity Cerebra to its members.  Many of the products serve as daily living aids.  Since its inception CIC has been working to improve the lives of many children with neurological conditions across the UK. 

Cerebra is a national charity, based in Carmarthen. The charity gives families who have a child with a brain condition the chance to find a better life together. Disabled children often encounter barriers to taking part in activities that non-disabled children take for granted. Cerebra’s Innovation Centre are inspired by the children we work with to come up with brilliant ideas, that aren’t currently available, to help children have fun, play, discover and take part.

Some of the products in the portfolio are now being commercialised in partnership with third party manufacturers under licensing agreements. Products include mobility and communication aids, products to enable IT access, supportive seating writing and drawing aids, and adaptions to existing products. All products designed or modified ensure that the child is included and that social stigma is reduced as far as possible.

Further Information

  1. 1.    For more information please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal PR and Communications Officer, on 01267 676908 / sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk / 07449 998476