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Young amputee learns to surf

Joanie Melady surfing
Joanie Melady surfing Image credit: oxfordmail.co.uk

A young amputee has been able to take to the seas thanks to a state-of-the -art prosthetic arm which enables surfers with physical upper body disabilities to stand up on surfboards.

Eight-year-old Joanie Melady, from Chinnor, was born with a congenital limb difference which meant her left arm was not fully developed before birth.

But her disability hasn’t stopped her burning ambition to be a surfer, when she was invited to a special event at The Wave in Bristol to try out the new prosthetic there was no way she was going to turn it down.

Her dad, Alan, told Oxford Mail: “Joanie had never tried anything like this before but she’s really sporty and was super excited to get out there and give it a go. Turns out, she’s a natural!

“She smiled the whole time and as soon as she had ridden one wave in, she was straight back out there to catch the next one.

"The prosthetic gave her the confidence and support she needed to push up from the board to standing.

"I’ve surfed a few times before but she was way better than me! We’re so proud of her.”

The soft fabric prosthetic, which can be fitted with different tool attachments, was designed by UK startup Koalaa, after months of hard work, research and trials it’s now on sale for budding amputee surfers across the globe.

The team worked in conjunction with Nicole Brennan, who was born with a below elbow limb difference.

In her honour the prosthetic has been christened “Nicole”.

Ms Brennan is no stranger to charity, in fact she’s the founder of The IMPOSSIBLE Foundation, which supports people with limb differences across the UK.

She said: “I spend as much time on the beach as I can and have always wanted to try surfing but never felt like it was a sport that was available to me.

"Being able to push up from the board to a standing position was always a barrier and it’s been amazing to work with the team at Koalaa to create a prosthetic that can make surfing accessible for those with limb differences like mine.

"Projects like this, which give people the confidence and tools they need to go out there and try new things, show that anything is possible, and that’s huge.”

The Wave Bristol is the first inland-surfing destination of its kind, where people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities can experience the joy of surfing.