Quadriplegic (70) still surfing

2019-08-06 06:01
Aadam Gaidien, Jadon Erasmus, Seth De Boer, Daniel Sparks and Lynn Cherubim with Pamela Hansford.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

Aadam Gaidien, Jadon Erasmus, Seth De Boer, Daniel Sparks and Lynn Cherubim with Pamela Hansford.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

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Upon becoming physically disabled, Pamela Hansford (70) was not interested in moping over the events that had robbed her of her mobility but rather focused on taking on the waves as an adaptive surfer.

Hansford drew the eyes of the crowds during one of her adaptive surfing sessions at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg, as employees of Roxy Surf Emporium carried her out on a board and guided her in the water.

She has been attending the sessions with the team since October last year, nine months after the accident that left her completely paralysed.

Hansford explains how she was injured. “I ignored all the warnings and it turned out it was blood moon and high tide – so being out in the water that day was not clever,” she says, relaying the story.

“I had a boogie-board and the first two waves were very nice. Then on the third one I decided it was too big and I did a stupid thing and tried to pull myself off sideways, and the wave picked me up and I was pile-driven into the shore.

“I hit it head-on so it was a perfect right-angle and my head snapped back, and I got five compression fractures in my upper cervical spine. Then it snapped forward and I damaged the discs, and by that point, I was completely paralysed.”

Not willing to compromise on her love for the sea, she says the accident simply allowed her to look at being in the ocean in a different way.

“When I woke up in hospital – and I was completely paralysed – I thought well at least I can be an adaptive surfer,” Hansford recalls.

Before the accident, she was a physiotherapist who had worked with a disabled surfer. He was part of the South African adaptive surfing team before he jetted off to California to compete.

She had visited Surfer’s Corner just three months before her accident to do research on how to better treat her patient.

“It’s been quite interesting, seeing it from both sides,” she says.

Aadam Gaidien, Seth De Boer, Jadon Erasmus, Daniel Sparks and Lynn Cherubim are some of the employees from Roxy’s Surf Emporium who help make the impossible possible for Hansford; assisting her in getting onto the board and into the water during her surfing sessions.

“I came from a differently-abled school, so I was always surrounded by people with various disabilities and it’s very nice to give something back to the community. It’s always been quite fulfilling to teach different people, from differently-abled people to people with mental disabilities,” says Gaidien.

Hansford adds: “They’re the fuel and I just get to fly.”

With her new lease on life, she encourages people of all ages and conditions to try the sport. “Surfing and adaptive surfing is the most amazing, inclusive sport,” she says.

  • For surfing lessons for people of all ages and abilities, call Roxy Surf Emporium on 021 788 8687.

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