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Surfers ride waves with disabled -

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Surfers ride waves with disabled

Reporter: Jonathan Harley

KERRY O'BRIEN: Every four years, the Paralympics serve to remind us all that physical disability is
no insurmountable barrier to sporting achievement. It's a message that's been taken literally by
one group of surfers in Australia, who are helping people with disabilities discover the thrill of
the surf. Jonathan Harley reports.

GARY BLASCHKE, DISABLED SURFING ASSOCIATION: When we first started taking disabled people to the
beach, the amount of stares, the amount of comments that we had from the general public was
unbelievable.

JONATHAN HARLEY: These gentle waves at Gerroa on the New South Wales south coast may not be world
championship material but they are producing some unlikely surfing legends.

KELLY McCANN: I don't really think there is nothing I can't do, really. I do surfing, what can't I
do, you know.

JONATHAN HARLEY: None more extraordinary than Kelly McCann. Ever since she was in a terrible car
accident when she was just 3-years-old, Kelly McCann's had no movement in her arms or legs, and
can't even breathe properly without a ventilator.

KELLY McCANN: People see the chair before they see you and they just think, "Oh my God! The poor
person. She won't be able to do much." I don't think of myself as disabled. I usually forget
because I do everything I want to do and need to do to keep me happy...keep my mind off it.

MARISA SMITH: My biggest fear as a nurse is: can I get air to her? If I can get air to her, I
figure, the logistics we can work around.

JONATHAN HARLEY: The logistics are mind boggling.

GARY BLASCHKE: She will hold her breath, yes, I will control it...

JONATHAN HARLEY: While Disabled Surf Association founder Gary Blaschke works out the plan with his
team of volunteers...

GARY BLASCHKE: 1, 2, 3...

JONATHAN HARLEY: Kelly McCann forgoes her electric ventilator for a hand pumped one. This entire
exercise hinges on keeping Kelly's airway dry.

MARISA SMITH: Surfing, the worst case scenario can be getting water in the trachea.

MAN 1: Probably the last time about six waves, depending on how she is going, you know.

GARY BLASCHKE: Depending on how many wipe-outs we get, yes!

JONATHAN HARLEY: Kelly McCann's never come off the board yet and for all the jokes, there's a
serious effort to keep it that way. The air bag is off just for the short time of the ride.

KELLY McCANN: For me, lying on the board, looking up at the sky, see the sun, just see the clouds,
see the water beside you and all these people are confident in you, and... you're confident in
them, and being free and when you're gliding along the water, feels like you're flying. Flying or
something like that. So..., yes, it's great.

MAN 1: Righto, guys, line up.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Gary Blaschke set up the Disabled Surfing Association after a motorbike accident
threatened to end his surfing days.

GARY BLASCHKE: I've taken blind people out that, you know, 35-years-old, never felt sand between
his toes and has never been to the beach. Didn't know what a wave was, had to explain how waves
were created.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Nearly 20 years later, thousands like Len Snowdown are getting help to catch
waves.

LEN SNOWDON: That wave, that wave was unbelievable!

JONATHAN HARLEY: Len Snowdown lost an arm and a leg in 1992 in a train accident at BHP's Wollongong
steel works.

LEN SNOWDON: That was 13 years ago now. It's still extremely hard to actually come to terms with.

JONATHAN HARLEY: He had never been on a surfboard before the accident, but strange as it may seem,
surfing became the key to his recovery.

LEN SNOWDON: It's given me the opportunity to experience life to the maximum, and to be accepted as
not a disabled person but as a person having a surf.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Nevertheless, the association only just stays afloat, thanks to a good will and a
trickle of donations. It can't buy enough boards, aquatic wheelchairs and other bits of kit to
support what may be Australia's fastest-growing surfing movement.

GARY BLASCHKE: We have something to sell to the rest of the world. I think we can teach a lot of
people around the world not to lock your disabled people up in rooms and let them waste away, let
'em get out there and experience what life is all about: fun, surfing.

JONATHAN HARLEY: But as Kelly McCann discovered, the surf is an unpredictable thing.

KELLY McCANN: I was just flying along the waves and next thing I know, I thought I would die for
five seconds there. Underwater.

MARISA SMITH: Next thing I know the surfboard's there and there's no Kelly.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Suction is needed to clear the water from Kelly's McCann's airway. It's a painful
procedure, and distressing to watch. But it's not enough to keep Kelly McCann out of the water.

KELLY McCANN: I don't know what's happening, but... I want to go back in. (LAUGHTER) This is
everything about getting out of the comfort zone. I was in my comfort zone before I did this and
now I'm out of it. You have to come down and see it to believe it. I didn't believe it either.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Extraordinary and inspiring to think of the effort behind the laughs. Jonathan
Harley reporting there.