National Manager for local services Helen Murray-Sharpe describes this summer’s hottest epilepsy event – Epilepsy Action on the beach!
This summer, Epilepsy Action organised three unique events in the UK – called Epilepsy Action on the beach! They were organised in partnership with Freedom Surf, Cornwall Sports Partnership and Active Devon.
Epilepsy and water are not supposed to mix. Many people with epilepsy are told not to swim or even take baths without supervision, just in case they have a seizure. However, those people are missing out on a lot of fun. We wanted to give adults and children with epilepsy and their families a unique surfing experience. We had 200 surf lessons to give away!
We were very lucky to have the support of Freedom Surf, who provided surf lessons to everyone who came to the event. Freedom Surf is a disabled surfing project whose mission is to provide fun and life-changing experiences to people with disabilities. All instructors are professional surf instructors. They have had specialist training and have tonnes of experience of working with people with disabilities. So, participants were safe at all times and their needs were well understood.
For those who didn’t want to surf, there were a variety of activities and games happening on the beach, provided by Active Devon and the Cornwall Sports Partnership. These included volleyball, beach tennis, ultimate Frisbee, soft ball and cricket. Epilepsy Action volunteers ran a sandcastle competition, too – a true family experience with something for everyone!
The events took place at:
• Fistral beach, Newquay between 27 and 29 July;
• Goodrington Sands, Torbay between 3 and 5 August; and
• Widemouth Bay, Bude on 10 and 11 August.
Surf lessons were entirely free and completely safe. There were three sessions of surf lessons a day, each accommodating 10 people. Meanwhile, the big red information bus (popularised during last summer’s epilepsy roadshow) provided information on epilepsy. The bus was staffed by volunteers from local branches. They were all happy to speak to anyone who wanted more information about epilepsy or about Epilepsy Action.
Mark, founder of Freedom Surf, said: “We urged people to sign up for this event and take advantage of this collaboration with Epilepsy Action, Freedom Surf, Cornwall Sports Partnership and Active Devon. Freedom Surf is the only surf school in the country to offer lessons to people with disabilities. It was a great opportunity for people to grab a free surfing lesson.”
Epilepsy Action’s South West England manager, Mark McDaid, said: “We wanted people with epilepsy to have the opportunity to do something different! Many people with epilepsy are prevented from swimming or surfing. That’s because of strict health and safety guidelines, or a lack of understanding about epilepsy. At this event, they were in a safe and understanding environment, and we wanted everyone to join in. It was a fantastic event suitable for every member of the family.”
Reports from the first of the Epilepsy Action on the beach events at Fistral beach Cornwall, showed the following.
• Fifty-two people with epilepsy and their carers had surfing lessons – for some, this was their very first experience of surfing.
• Epilepsy Action and the Cornwall Branch volunteers worked together to raise awareness in over 20,000 people on the beach over the weekend (figures from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution).
• An Olympic torch – carried by Jerry Parry, a member of the Cornwall Branch – was on display. It attracted a lot of interest!
• There were fabulous new awnings – which meant you couldn’t miss us on the sands!
• The big red information bus – packed full of advice and information displays – was a great attraction.
One man who took part that first weekend told us that the surfing lesson had made his holiday. It was the first time he had ever felt proud to have epilepsy. That makes it all worth it!
Epilepsy Action has an extensive network of branches throughout the UK. Branches hold regular meetings and offer a variety of social events and informative talks and discussions about epilepsy.
Epilepsy Action’s Cornwall Branch meets on the last Wednesday of the month at The Royal British Legion, St Mary’s Street, Truro. Meetings run between 7pm and 9pm. For more information, contact Nathan on 07596 804 132 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Epilepsy Action’s Torbay Branch meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Medical Centre, Torbay Hospital, Newton Road, Torbay. Meetings begin at 7.30pm. For more information contact Patrick on 01803 856 735.Epilepsy Action would like to thank its Torbay Branch for a generous donation of £10,000 towards this event.