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Surfing for all in Brazil - 13th August 2021 View All

The stunning coastline of Santos in Brazil sees people, whatever their age or ability, preparing to take to the waves.

Convinced that there is no health without happiness and that surfing brings happiness, veteran Brazilian surfer Francisco Araña set up the Radical School of Adapted Surfing.

Malu Mendes is living proof of his belief. Born with cerebral palsy, she defied expectations to become a parasurfing world champion in 2020.

Malu Mendes: "I was born with cerebral palsy, and when I went to the doctor after years of surfing, he said there was no explanation as to why I am doing so well. My neurological exam is that of someone who can't walk well, what made the difference was surfing."

However, the school isn’t here solely for the benefit of those aiming to enter elite sport. Since its founding two years ago, dozens of children, teenagers and adults with autism, Downs Syndrome, amputations or cerebrovascular problems have all made the most of the surf.

Araña’s first step was creating an adaptive surfboard. This had to cater to a range of needs.

Francisco Araña: "I built this board with adaptations like these: to lift my chest, for me to place my chin, so I can further adapt. For example, if I have some kind of physical condition in my arm, I work on very simple positions to adapt my body and not injure myself and it’s very cheap to build."

Living with less than 10 percent vision following an illness as an infant, Miguel Almeida finds his other senses make up for this when he surfs.

Miguel Almeida: "I can hear more than normal so I am able to visualize things in a different way, not with my eyes but with my ears. And when I am surfing, with the sound of the waves I know if the waves are big or small.

Almeida’s dream is to reach the World Parasurfing Championships in California this December. Araña’s Radical School has played its part in making this dream a reality. View Less

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