For Chloe Murnane – who lives with cerebral palsy – learning to surf earlier this year opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
- Chloe Murnane lives with cerebral palsy and has been surfing for less than six months
- Adaptive surfing helped her physically and mentally
- Chloe recently finished third in the lying assist division in Hawaii
The 18-year-old, born in the Eyre Peninsula, now lives in Adelaide and recently returned from the inaugural Adaptive Surfing Professionals World Championship event in Waikiki, Hawaii.
Adaptive surfing allowed competitors with challenges, such as those with physical or visual impairments, to use specialized equipment or a surfing experience tailored to their abilities.
Chloe’s mother, Paula Murnane, said she was initially worried about Chloe in the waves.
However, she had had huge benefits for Chloe, both physically and mentally.
“I was a bit hesitant at first I guess because I thought the water and the effort it would take to be able to do this would make her legs even tighter,” Ms Murnane said.
Before learning to surf in February, Chloe spent part of her life in a wheelchair, to facilitate her mobility.
Ms Murnane said that before surfing, her daughter had never had the strength to walk more than 500 metres.
Now Chloe could travel longer distances.
“There’s a lot of reinforcement that’s happened through surfing,” Ms. Murnane said.
Ocean offers the first chance to be equal
In her first surf event, Chloe placed third in the recumbent assist division.
She communicated by voice, but also through her communication board, and said she really enjoyed surfing twice a week.
“Being in the water makes me stronger, I love catching a wave and spinning and one day soon I will beat Joss,” Chloe said.
Joss, or Jocelyn Neumueller, was another member of Australia’s adaptive surfing team.
The 26-year-old South Australian knocked out the women’s recumbent assist division just two years after starting the sport.
Ms Neumueller said there was a great sense of freedom in the ocean.
“It’s something you can’t experience on land and be in the ocean, it clears your mind, resets you and sets you up for the week [ahead].”
Ms Neumueller said she was limited in what she could do on land.
“In the ocean I’m equal, I can go anywhere, ride any wave like anyone else, so I just think that level of equality, freedom and independence that the ocean and the waves provide, you can’t find that anywhere else,” she said.
“It brings me so much joy to see how surfing can change someone’s life.”