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Tom Bridge from Avoca SLSC will compete in his last Your local club Inclusive Champs this year ahead of transitioning into the Under 12s Nippers program in 2021.

Tom has been part of the Avoca Beach SLSC Sharkies inclusion program for four years. His Aunty Kat who got him into the Sharkies says it has changed his life in ways she never thought possible.

Four years ago Tom was scared of water and is now thriving across all beach and water activities as well as socially. “The program has allowed Tom to develop physical and social skills and self confidence and not just on the beach, it’s had huge benefits in every area of his life,” said Kat.

How has Tom overcome his fear of water and evolved into a highly competitive surf sports member? He says it was all thanks to his buddies, club athletes Finn and Byron who were 16 at the time and devoted time to hanging out and playing with Tom on the weekend during the Sharkies program.

“When I first started I was scared very scared of the water. Finn and Byron would have water fights with me. They threw buckets of water at me. It was really fun,” said Tom. “I love being at the beach.

Over four years Tom has made so much progress with the program he has even started honing his beach sprint and flags skills and just this month beat all the mainstream competitors in the Avoca Beach club championships event.

“I’ve been practicing for State Champs with high knees, learning how to dig my toes into the sand,” said Tom who is a hot contender to take out the beach sprint this year after coming in third in 2019 and second in the flags. He will also be contesting the swim this year, while still in training with the board for now he insisted we’ll see him out there on a big racing mal soon. 

“At the end of the day they’re all just kids having fun on the beach together,” said Kat. And to watch them last year just so amped to be there, it was a teary moment for a lot of people. It’s the inclusion but also the exposure and opportunity to compete against other clubs.”

There are now 34 NSW surf clubs running inclusive programs for members. To celebrate and encourage these programs, the Inclusive Championships is being held as part of the NSW Championships on Sunday 1 March 2020. For the second year members living with a disability aged seven and above can enter the event in the swim, board, sprint and flags races to test their skills against others from across the state.


Wednesday 12 February 2020