Surf’s up for children who are blind or have low vision

24 January 2018

Children who are blind and low vision from the Newcastle, Hunter Valley and Central Coast regions are set to descend on a Newcastle beach today for a day in the surf.

The second annual Vision Australia Surf Day will see more than 20 children from as young as six-years old, who live with varying levels of vision loss, take to the sand and surf for an experience their sighted counterparts may take for granted.

Under the guidance of Vision Australia staff, World Champion surfer Matt Formston and qualified surfing instructors, the children will be provided with a chance to learn to surf and important lessons about beach safety in a safe and supportive environment.

“Going for a surf or spending a day at the beach is a something a lot of young people in Australia would consider to be nothing out of the ordinary, however living with blindness or low vision can make that a bit more of challenge for our clients,” Vision Australia Paediatric Speech Pathologist Kristin Mueller said.

“Events like this are a great way for our clients to experience things they may not otherwise get the chance to. After the day if any of the clients decide that surfing or going to the beach is something they’d like to do more regularly, we can then work with them to develop the skills and strategies to support them to do that,” Kristin said.

With World Champion surfer and Paralympian Matt Formston involved, the Surf Day is also a perfect chance to help young people understand that living with blindness or low vision doesn’t have to be a barrier to them following their dreams.

“Matt is great example that people who are blind or have low vision are more than capable of living the life they choose. If you look at what he’s done, both sporting and otherwise, he’s got an amazing list of achievements,” Kristin said.

“Unfortunately there are still some misperceptions about what people who are blind or have low vision can and can’t do. Hopefully by giving our clients the chance to meet somebody like Matt they’ll be able to take away the confidence to pursue whatever they want in life.”

About Vision Australia

Vision Australia is a leading national provider of blindness and low vision services in Australia working in partnership with Australians who are blind or have low vision to help them achieve the possibilities they choose in life.

Vision Australia supports more than 27,500 people of all ages, life stages and circumstances through 28 Vision Australia centres in Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and through outreach programs in the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

About Matt Formston

Matt Formston is a world champion tandem cyclist, speaker, coach and global adventure seeker. Matt was diagnosed with Macular Dystrophy at age five and now lives with just 5% of his peripheral vision. Matt represented Australia in cycling in the 2016 Rio Paralympics and has recently returned from the United States where he was crowned the 2017 Visually Impaired International Surfing Association World Champion. Read more about Matt’s life and achievements: www.mattformston.com.

Image shows a young VA client surfing at the 2017 surf day