Who would have thought that less than a year since being registered with The Charity Commission, Access Adventures would already be running an international camp! The AA crew were a little nervous leading up to the camp, but we needn’t have worried, thankfully it was a resounding success!
One of the reasons we founded the charity was to provide access to some of the more difficult to find adaptive sports. Kitesurfing totally fits the bill. Although a handful of disabled athletes have been kitesurfing for a few years now, surf clubs that have accessible accommodation, adaptive equipment and are willing to put in the extra thought and resources required are rare.
Surf Club Keros surpassed all our expectations. Nestled in a beautiful bay on the tiny Greek Island of Lemnos, Giannis and his dedicated staff have created a stunning, safe place to learn the sport. We met them in 2015 to help develop the equipment and teaching programme, plus advise on how to improve accessibility. They were more than happy to adapt things to meet our needs and seemed to genuinely enjoy coming up with solutions for the challenges that disability sport can present.
We were so excited to introduce more people to this incredible place and sport! For our first camp we had six disabled participants, 2 able -bodied friends/ partners and 3 volunteers. While some of the participants had various wakeboard experience, all were new to kiting.
Surf Club Keros has luxury safari tents that more than met our needs. Each canvas tent is attached to a permanent bathroom structure. Six of these were adapted for our needs – they had wetrooms, plus ramps up to the wooded decking at the front of the tent. They’re more spacious than most hotel rooms! The communal area is the perfect place to relax, with hammocks and comfy seats to chill out with a mojito, along with tables to enjoy your buffet food.
The Keros guys provided transport for those that found it tricky pushing down to the beach (a 10 minute walk away). They had even tried to make the beach accessible! Sand and wheelchairs definitely are not the best of friends, but the addition of some heavy duty matting made getting from A to B less of a battle. A covered wooden decking area provided plenty of room to hide from the midday sun.
Despite the overnight flight, changing at Athens and arriving very early in the morning, our hardcore participants were keen to get started straight away. After a little theory, the first lesson in kiting (disabled or able-bodied) is land-based practice with trainer kites. However, getting across soft sand to the area for the lesson provided some additional challenges for our wheelchair participants. Keros came up with an ingenious and fun solution though – travel down the beach on the water, not land!
We had the use of a few SUP boards and kayaks with high backed seats and straps for those that needed them. These provided much needed support and stability for the first land-based kite lesson.
They also came in useful for various fun paddle sessions throughout the week. One in particular involved the whole group – we started at the surf club and paddled around the bay. It felt like a real team effort, everyone helping anyone who needed it. Our wheelchairs were transported to the finish site. We were then rewarded with a fabulous sunset barbecue on the beach.
The next stage in the kiting progression was to use the ‘inflatable couch’. This allows one or 2 students to sit next to their instructor, be harnessed in with a leading edge inflatable kite to improve kite control and introduce a bit of movement. There were a couple of impressive couch toppling situations! The instructors were very patient, and despite the physical limitations, students made impressively quick progress.
Following on from this is body-dragging. This is trickier for people with disabilities as it requires being able to stabilise yourself in the water. Participants had an instructor with them to provide as little or as much support as required.
Unfortunately, the wind then decided to desert us. This could have been a disaster; it was frustrating for people not to be able to progress to the sit-kite. However, the incredible attitude of the whole group meant that it didn’t ruin things. Although disappointed, we still managed to have the most fun week; I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire time!
We managed to still fill the camp with fun activities – an excursion to the pretty port of Myrina, adaptive yoga, beach games, paddling, and those with enough balance even had a few windsurfing lessons. It was very entertaining to watch someone sitting on a stool perched on the board, cruising across the bay!
The Access Adventures crew want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone involved with the camp: the Keros guys couldn’t have done more for us, our volunteers were absolute superstars, and our participants had such a positive outlook on life that they totally made the camp the success it was.
One of our volunteers, Jason, had this to say about the camp:
"It reinforced the idea that in life often the only barriers are those we create in our minds. With enough creativity and motivation almost anything is possible if you want it badly enough. To see these adaptive athletes giving it 100% and not accepting that their disabilities should hold them back or prevent them from doing physically challenging activities was really incredible to see. The Access Adventure team really are doing amazing things for really amazing people. I came away feeling totally inspired and as a representative of British Kitesports I will do whatever I can further the development of their adaptive kite program"