Today, Team England surfer, Charlotte Banfield tells us how being active and learning to surf has helped her balance and coordination.
My name is Charlotte Banfield Weston, I’m 19 and live in Penryn, Cornwall. My impairments include autism and cerebral palsy, I also have a heart condition that causes me to blackout sometimes. I have had over 10 operations on my heart, legs and hips.I am a surfer.
I love the ocean and spend a lot of my time in the sea. In December 2017, I went to California as part of Team Surfing England to compete at the World Adaptive Surfing Championships and came home with a silver medal.I started surfing back in 2009 with a charity called The Wave Project.
I had very low self-confidence and I found it hard to do sport at school because I felt judged by non-disabled people for doing things differently. When I first started surfing I was very nervous about being in the sea and fell off my board lots.
Now, you can’t get me out of the sea because I have so much fun. Surfing has not only improved my confidence but it has made me believe I am capable of trying anything. It also has so many benefits on my mental and physical health.I thoroughly enjoy exercise and live a very active lifestyle, so as well as surfing, I also love to walk, go to the gym and cycle. I also play basketball for Cornwall Wildcats Basketball Club and I’m also a part of the Special Olympics GB Female Basketball Team.
What I enjoy most about being active is that it makes me feel happy and confident. Feeling fit and in control of my body is important. After going for a surf or working out I feel like I can conquer anything.Being active and learning to surf has helped my balance and coordination massively. Before, I struggled with the smallest things like tying my shoelaces, but now I’ve found alternative ways to do those things.
This has been a big lesson for me, I realised that everyone is aiming for the same destination but our journeys are different and that’s ok.When I am standing on my surfboard riding an awesome wave into the shore, it feels amazing! I can forget about everything on land and live in the moment. The ocean is a great escape and riding the waves gives you a real buzz. After a good surf, I feel cleansed, confident and really chilled.Knowing that I’m making the people around me proud is really nice. It makes me feel like I have a purpose.
The support of my family is the most important thing to me, especially when their watching me at a competition, it makes me excited and gives me extra motivation. It’s nice to be part of a team too, we all support each other unconditionally and it’s like a little family. In the next year I am going to continue having fun in the sea and start training for a few other competitions. I’m hoping to go out to Hawaii in August, for an adaptive competition during the Dukes Festival, as well as competing at the USA Open.
I’m hoping to return to the World Adaptive Surfing Championships in December too. I will also start training with the Great Britain Basketball team in London for the Special Olympic World Games, taking place in Abu Dhabi in March 2019.My advice to other disabled people who are thinking about getting into a sport or being more active is - if you put your mind to it, you can do it. You might need to find another way to do something but when you have found that way it is completely worth it.
There is a sport out there for everyone, you just have to find it. When you love doing something, you’ll get a feeling and that will be it, you’ll be gripped.