The inclusion of every citizen in society is one of the European Union’s priorities. While much progress has been made in recent years, people with disabilities still face barriers to their full participation and inclusion in society, whether in access to healthcare, education, employment, political life or recreational and sporting activities.
Disability or illness is the third most frequently cited reason (cited by 14% of respondents) for not practicing a sport more regularly. The problems of access to sporting activities, mobility restrictions, negative perceptions of disability and the lack of specialist knowledge and skills in disability issues among those involved in sport are all challenges. As a result, there is a lack of equality in terms of access to physical activity and the significant benefits that go with it.
As well as the usual benefits associated with physical activity, surfing also has therapeutic benefits associated with outdoor activities and the ocean environment. Over the last ten years or so, the number of surfers has continued to grow in the European Union and internationally, as have surf therapy programmes. The International Surfing Therapy Organisation (ISTO), for example, has grown from 20 members at its creation in 2017 to over 80 today. Despite significant growth in the practice of adapted surfing over the last ten years, there is no agreed methodology on how to run adapted surfing programmes or activities, and no common methods for evaluating the outcomes.
The INCLUSEA project, co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Sport programme, has sought to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between European adapted surfing organisations, in order to improve teaching methods, safety, equipment and health outcomes for participants. It’s a project based on exchange, with the aim of improving access to the sport and promoting inclusion and mutual understanding between people with and without disabilities, because “disability dissolves in water”.
Through a highly participative and interdisciplinary process – the project brought together researchers, people with disabilities, surf educators and professionals implementing adapted surfing programmes. INCLUSEA aimed to develop and co-create a best practice guide for a common teaching methodology for surf instructors oriented towards people with physical and/or sensory disabilities. To achieve this, the research process was divided into several stages:
The aim of the project was to help contribute to the inclusion of people with disabilities in society and to improve accessibility to surfing and coastal areas, so that everyone can enjoy their benefits.
Recognising the emerging and rapidly evolving nature of adaptive surfing, the project outputs seek to offer evidence-based guidance that can be tailored to best suit the very diverse contexts in which many adaptive surfing programmes are delivered for therapeutic, recreational and/or sporting purposes, rather than providing pre-determined teaching methods. We recognise that given the constraints of such a project (e.g. time, resources, geographic scope, etc.) the information and guidance provided in the toolkit is in no way definitive, rather it is hoped that it can provide the groundwork for the on-going sharing, co-development and evolution of adaptive surfing in our communities.
While the INCLUSEA project focused on people with physical and/or sensory disabilities, the members of the consortium wish to continue their work on inclusion and equal opportunities for people with intellectual and psychological disabilities.
“For many years, surfing in Cantabria has played a significant role as a tool for sustainable development, driving the deseasonalization of tourism and promoting inclusion, accessibility and gender equality. The Erasmus+ Sport Consortium INCLUSEA, led by the Regional Society for Education, Culture and Sport of the Cantabrian Government, in partnership with six other organizations from five European countries, has taken a successful bottom-up approach to develop tools that improve the lives of people with disabilities, both physically and socially, while promoting their connection with the natural environment and blue spaces. The first results are very satisfactory and the international summit in Cantabria was a success. At Somo beach, we verified how this toolkit can improve the skills of surf instructors, therapists, volunteers and professionals in the field of adaptive surfing, facilitating learning through common guidelines that can be implemented in their training programmes, but also used as a tool for social inclusion.”
Pablo Zuloaga, Vice-president of Cantabria and Regional Minister for Universities, Equality, Culture and Sport
“Surfing is more than just a sport; it is a way to connect with the ocean, with yourself, and with others. It provides physical and mental health benefits to those who practice it. The Cantabrian coast is home to the first Surf Reserve network in Europe, which offers consistent high-quality waves all year round. The coastal communities have declared their waves as part of their natural heritage, as well as economic, social, cultural, sporting and environmental resources. These blue spaces and the intrinsic values and benefits of surfing should be accessible to all. INCLUSEA has brought together a talented team of blue-minded individuals from across Europe to promote the inclusion and accessibility of people with physical and/or sensory disabilities in surfing. This intercultural and interdisciplinary team uses the forces of nature and education to nurture a truly inclusive approach to normalizing inclusion, diversity and accessibility in sports. Since day one, our crew aims to break down barriers in sport, engage diverse stakeholders at the local and European level, strengthen civil society through European values, gain valuable insights through research and development of adaptive surfing, inspire positive change, and ultimately leave a lasting impact for the future of people with disabilities.”
Javier Cantera, Inclusea and Bluesurfest coordinator. European Projects Manager of the Regional Society of Education, Culture and Sports
“This closely collaboration with INCLUSEA partners has been a great experience for our organisation that has been training French surf instructors in inclusive practices, promoting accessibility and social inclusion for a decade.
This joint project is a good way to pool resources and skills at an European level, supported by the European Union. It will enable us to share good practice for welcoming person with physical and sensory disabilities.
By dissolving barriers to participation in water sports, we hope to promote equal opportunities and access to coastal areas for all. We believe that this project will benefit instructors, volunteers and individuals with disabilities alike, enabling them to become active members of society and enjoy their natural environment.
It’s also the creation of a strong European network for the development of adaptive surfing in which Handi Surf is stocked to be part of”.
Jean-Marc SAINT-GEOURS, founder and manager of Handi Surf
“Working closely with 6 european organisations on the INCLUSEA project has given us insight and better understanding for different approaches in adaptive surf coching. Getting to know the work of many adaptive surfing programs all over the world in detail showed the potential and possibilities that lie within adaptive surfing.
The diversity and combined experience of the INCLUSEA partners allowed to create a great toolkit that will help both inexperienced and experienced surf coaches to deliver quality adaptive surf sessions in the future.
The German Surfing Federation (DWV e.V.) learned a lot from its partners and was able to bring valuable input and expertise to the table. We are beyond stoked to be part of the INCLUSEA and are looking forward to future projects to push adaptive surfing in Europe and worldwide.”
Adaptive Surfing Committee, German Surfing Federation DWV e.V.
“Participating in the INCLUSEA project has been an incredible experience and opportunity for Liquid Therapy. Our charity has been built on providing access to the surf and ocean for those who cannot or who struggle to participate in a mainstream opportunities. Historically we have worked primarily with young individuals with intellectual needs and to have had this experience with INCLUSEA to broaden our understanding, knowledge and confidence in the world has been incredibly empowering to us an organisation!”
Tom Losey, Founder and CEO of Liquid Therapy
INCLUSEA has given an enormous boost to the adapted surfing project in which the Ribamontán al Mar City Council has been working since 2012.
The joint work between the partners of the consortium has not only generated an extraordinary final result in terms of methodological development, but has also created an excellent network of European collaborators for future projects in the field of inclusion, health, social or economic matters.
The final event held in Ribamontán al Mar has not only been a success of participation, organization and implementation of the work developed during the previous months, but it has also made the community of adapted surfers grow and the interest of these athletes in future events.
Francisco Asón, Mayor of Ribamontán al Mar City Council
“INCLUSEA is a fantastic working group, to which UTAD is proud to belong, with surfing rooted in its soul and working with deep passion on using the nature of surfing to build effective processes of inclusion of people with some kind of disability.
INCLUSEA is one of the best “grounds” for the emergence of disruptive scientific methodologies, crucial for the development of a better and more inclusive society, connected to our ancestors and future generations.
INCLUSEA is the human soul flowing with water in a powerful, transformative and healing process that helps build, develop and strengthen a sustainable and inclusive Aloha Spirit community.
Thank you INCLUSEA for helping us to know and integrate the different ways of surfing the “waves of life” to achieve well-being and happiness, in a planet full of noise, confusion and that cries out for help.g and happiness, in a planet full of noise, confusion and that cries out for help”.
Ronaldo Gabriel, PhD (Associated Professor, UTAD, Portugal) and Helena Moreira, PhD (Associated Professor, UTAD, Portugal)
Surf Clube Viana has been working in adaptive surfing since 2008 and, in our point of view, INCLUSEA project was a turning point for the European Adaptive Surfing. Fostering and uniting a sturdy continental network for the development of inclusion,diversity and accessibility through surfing.
It gathers the scientific knowledge and field work from 6 of the most dynamic European organisations and compiles it into a practical tool that can support individuals, groups, coaches, clubs and federations to develop their activity and polices in a more inclusive way towards people with some kind of motor or sensory disability.
Promoting and take part of such project financed by the European Union, ERASMUS+ SPORT, connecting with a great partnership and, through nature and waves, break barriers and contribute for equal opportunities, well-being, health and happiness of European Citizens can’t let us nothing but pride and a bright look on the future of adaptive surfing.
Surf Clube de Viana TEAM: João Zamith & Gonçalo Cruz