The following unsolicited testimonials have been provided as an insight into what the DSAA is all about…
The following testimonial from John Cooper was sent to Billabong on 13 March 2013 seeking their support and sponsorship.
I was given your name as the most appropriate person to initially direct my email to, and I thank you in advance for taking to the time to read it as I know it will be relatively long winded. I will apologise now beforehand for its length, but as it is something I am passionate about, it is not something I will quickly gloss over. I also ask that if you are not the best person to respond to my queries below, if you would then be so kind as to redirect it to whoever in the Billabong company you feel it may be better directed to.
I live in Perth Western Australia and write to you not only as a rapidly ageing surfer who has embraced and promoted the surf culture and lifestyle since my early teens, but more so as a concerned parent of a “special needs” son.
My son Kyle is 30 years old and suffers from Autism, and as such, he has faced many difficulties and challenges during his entire life. Up until several years ago Kyle had a very strong fear of the water and no matter what support and guidance my family provided him, he would not willingly enter the water unless it was in a safe controlled environment such a shallow swimming pool, and even when he did so, always expressed fear and apprehension wanting to exit the water quickly. Although Kyle is disabled and considered to be “special needs”, myself and the rest of my family have always urged and encouraged him to try to lead as “normal” life as he possibly can.
My family and I are very much “water sport” orientated and we regularly engage in surfing, wake boarding, tubing and water skiing activities. We are fortunate enough to have our own wake boat and we try to hit the water most weekends. We tried for many years to coerce Kyle to come in the boat with us, or even better, for him to be towed around slowly in a ski tube. No matter what support we provided to Kyle, he could not overcome his fear of the water and was scared of being in the boat and would never entertain the idea of sitting in a ski tube. As his parents, it was always heart-wrenching for us to see Kyle not being able to enjoy the same activities that his brother and sister and other so called “normal” people simply take for granted.
Several years ago however Kyle and I were fortunate enough to stumble across the “Disabled Surfer’s Association” (DSA), and I cannot even really begin to explain to you how life changing this organisation has been to Kyle.
I took Kyle to his first DSA outing under complete duress and reluctance on his part to even attend. Once we arrived at the beach however Kyle was somewhat calmed and reassured by him being able to witness first hand other disabled people, many with disabilities far worse than his, place their entire trust and well being into the hands of the DSA support volunteers.
Over time, the constant level of encouragement, guidance, compassion and support provided by DSA and all of their support volunteers has helped Kyle reach a level of self confidence where he has now basically overcome his fear of the water. Kyle now looks forward to each and every planned DSA outing with eagerness and anticipation, always stating that he hopes the waves are big and he gets to have plenty of rides during the day.
Since discovering DSA, Kyle’s newly found level of confidence has enabled him to also now engage in activities that we previously would never have thought possible. One day a year or so ago whilst we were getting our boat ready to take out for the day, Kyle out of the blue asked if he could come with us and finally have a try at tube riding. I can’t describe how gratifying it was for us as a family to see Kyle finally muster enough courage for him to try the tube. He now regularly has tube rides behind our boat, even to the point where we can speed things up a bit and attempt to have him fall off the tube.
Kyle also recently asked if I could buy him his own surfboard which I immediately did. He and I can now finally go “surfing” together as a father and son are meant to. Sure, Kyle’s disability limits him to just catching shore breaks, but I couldn’t be more proud of him if he was charging 15 foot Pipe barrels. In fact, my wife and I are taking Kyle to Bali in a few weeks time and he has stated that we both need to take our boards so we can surf together everyday whilst we over there. He now even buys Surf magazines and has surf posters hanging in his room. He has totally embraced the surf culture as a result of his association with the DSA.
As I stated earlier, I believe the change in Kyle’s behaviour is entirely attributable to the Disabled Surfer’s Association.
The DSA is an Australia wide organisation that provides an invaluable service to people with disabilities, whether they be intellectual or physical and it has no age restriction for participants. I have seen people ranging from about 8 years of age to persons who would be well into their 60’s. It allows people who ordinarily would not be able to enjoy the “stoke” of “surfing” to finally do so. The DSA is always staffed solely by volunteers and is totally reliant on sponsorship for its entire operation. To attend one of DSA’s events is to literally witness humanity at it finest. I am not too proud to admit that I still on occasion shed tears of joy when I attend outings simply due to pure raw emotion.
Unfortunately however the DSA is rapidly becoming a victim of its own success, and herein lies the reason of my email to you.
As I stated a moment ago, my understanding is that the DSA is solely reliant on sponsorship to keep their organisation and services ongoing. As such, they have a limited amount of funds, and that also equates to a limited amount of equipment. However, as recognition and awareness of the DSA is growing within the disabled community, the number of people with disabilities attending is quickly reaching a crisis point where the DSA does not have sufficient equipment and funds to accommodate all of those wishing to participate.
At the last Perth DSA outing, the number of attendees was so large that most people were only able to have one ride each for the entire day, and I am almost certain that some people would have possibly missed out altogether. I was talking to a few of the DSA event organisers on the day and they stated that it is reaching a point where they may have to resort to limiting the number of attendees and possibly operate the events on a booking system. Kyle and I would be devastated if he would no longer be able to attend the DSA events, and in fact, he even now does not fully understand why he currently is only able to have one “surf” when he attends their events. I also question that if people were refused attendance once, if they would then bother trying to apply for future outings. It would be such a travesty if people could not enjoy what the DSA has to offer.
As I have identified above, Kyle is only one individual success story of the DSA, and I would bet anything that over the years there has been many others similar in nature , and hopefully, there will always continue to be many more. Without the assistance and support of the DSA, I doubt Kyle would be where is is today.
I personally have no level of involvement or association with the DSA other than the fact that my son Kyle attends their events to participate, and I subsequently attend as his carer, but as a result of my last conversation with the DSA Supervisors and co-ordinators, I have decided to write to you solely of my own choice, not only as one of Australia’s, but also the world’s most instantly recognisable and iconic companies synonymous with surfing, to ask if Billabong would consider providing a level of sponsorship and support to the DSA, specifically, the Perth based branch?
I understand that the Billabong company already provides a very large amount of funding and sponsorship to many diverse areas of surfing, as do all other major surf brand organisations, however, the area of disabled surfing to this day remains largely unknown and unfunded. Every time I attend a DSA outing, I always see a large number of “die-hard” surfers who unselfishly give of their own time to participate as volunteers so as to enable others less fortunate to enjoy the same stoke as they do themselves when surfing. I have spoken with many of these surfers and they all state that volunteering for the DSA is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things they have done. I regularly post information about the DSA on my Facebook page and after doing so always get enquiries from people who were unaware of the Association asking how they too can help. I even recently had people from Canada contact me to find out information as they want to try and establish a similar thing in Canada.
I again urge Billabong to seriously consider providing a level of sponsorship to the DSA, as in doing so would not be of huge benefit to the DSA, but would also offer Billabong a great marketing possibility whereby the company could proactively promote its level of involvement, support and sponsorship with bringing surfing to the disabled community so that they too can enjoy the thrill and excitement that only surfing can bring. I truly believe that such sponsorship would be well received and applauded not only within the surfing world, but also within the general public as a whole. It would certainly portray the Billabong the company in a very caring and compassionate light.
I am sorry that my email has been so long, but as I said at the beginning, I feel that this not something that could be quickly glossed over.
I have also appended a few photos of my son Kyle and others at some of the DSA events so that you can readily see the sheer joy that the DSA delivers to these people.
If you would like further information, here is a link to their web page: http://disabledsurfers.org
On a final note, I would like to quote a comment made by one of the young disabled lads at the last DSA outing, that being “When I am standing on a surfboard the whole world seems perfect” . In a sense, I suppose that one sentence alone pretty much sums up everything I have tried to explain above.
Thank you again for taking the time to read my email and I look forward to your reply.
I can be contacted by return email to this address, or alternatively by phone on 0409204553.