Guernsey Press

Local para surfer ready to ride at national competition

A local woman will be hoping to ride the wave of victory this week as she competes in the 2024 English Para Surfing Open in Bristol.

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Sophie Veron, second left, is competing in the adaptive surfing section of a national surfing competition at the Bristol Wave. Pictured with her are Instructor Ben Clifford, left, instructors Rachael green and Rebekah Kellow, right. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 33372167)

Sophie Veron will be taking on para surfers from all over the world at the two-day event, which is being held at The Wave, an inland surfing lake which generates up to 1,000 waves per hour using technology pioneered by Spanish firm Wavegarden.

Miss Veron will be using a specially-designed board for the competition which allows her to surf lying down, due to her being unable to stand as a result of disabilities.

She has hydrocephalus, which causes fluid to build up in the brain, as well as scoliosis – a sideways curvature of the spine – for which she has metal rods inserted in her back.

‘I never thought I would be able to do something like this, but once I heard about para surfing I contacted Rachael [Green] and Rebekah [Kellow], who are instructors for inclusive and accessible surfing in Guernsey,’ she sad.

‘I started training for this event a couple of months ago, it’s moved quite quickly.’

Miss Veron will line up against seven other competitors in her heat, and will attempt to ride a number of waves over several hundred metres.

‘There are lots of different categories – in mine everyone will be lying down but some include kneeling and some are standing,’ she said.

Ms Green, who runs aquatic fitness company Aqua Health and last year set up sea accessibility charity Ocean Therapy Guernsey with Ms Kellow, said she had been introduced to Miss Veron by current Channel Islands adaptive surfing champion Rheya Sarre, and had been impressed with her determination.

‘I’m so pleased that we have been able to play a part in her getting to the point where she wants to compete in an event like this,’ she said.

‘The work we do is all about aspiring to inclusive surfing, and we are looking at setting up an official programme in Guernsey so that more people can get involved.’

Miss Veron’s board has been given to her by Ben Clifford, who runs Surfability, a UK company which provides surfing lessons to people with additional needs at Caswell Bay near Swansea.

He was asked to get involved with Miss Veron’s preparation by Ms Green after getting to know her while she was completing her instructor trainining.

‘I was more than happy to lend Sophie the board and offer my support,’ he said.

‘The good thing about these events is that all of the competitors get to ride the same type of waves, but they all support one another and it’s just a lovely community atmosphere.’