Last Saturday, on a sublimely beautiful winter’s afternoon, around a hundred people clustered together on the Caswell seafront to witness the opening of a rather special building.
The Canthed Centre is the new home of Surfability – a charity that makes surfing accessible for people with a complete range of disabilities.
For years the space has been a disused bus shelter – used only by dog walkers escaping the rain or teenagers looking for somewhere to sup cider away from disapproving parental eyes.
But after more than 2 years negotiations with local authorities, the dream of charity owner Ben Clifford has finally come true, and Surfability has a home.
Ben Clifford (right) and his right hand man Toby (left) in front of their new Canthed Centre (behind)
When I first met Ben more than 2 years ago he was running the charity from his own home – a first floor flat above a gallery in the Mumbles. There were surfboards everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. In the hallway. On the stairs. In his bed. Wet wetsuits hanging from every curtain rail. (Better not tell the landlord that bit)
Running a single session for his students involved carrying a dozen or more foamies down the awkward stairs, loading them precariously onto the roof of his Vauxhall estate and driving, very slowly, over the hill to Caswell.
Three and a half years and more than 300 students later, Ben has taken Surfability a long way. Typically though, he isn’t thinking of himself when he talks about the difference the new centre will make.
“It’s just going to make it so much better for all our surfers, having somewhere to change into their wetsuits” he says. “People were getting changed in the smelly car park toilet. We’ve got our own changing table now too, which will be so much better, as lots of the students used to bring their own.”
The Canthed Centre was officially opened by Welsh rugby legend Geoff Wheel 'Man of Steel'.
The centre was named after the old name for the Caswell area, something Ben found out when researching the titles on the land.
“Canthed is the Welsh term for a group of warriors. It also means ‘warriors of peace’ which I think is the perfect name for our surfers – each of them is battling their own unique challenges”
I’ve helped out a little (though not nearly as much as I should) with the sessions that Ben runs, and it’s just incredible to see the difference that surfing makes in his students’ lives. From Kai Lewis, who rode waves for the first time on a specially designed board with an attached seat, to Llewellyn Williams, who will travel with Ben to California later in December to represent Wales in the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, Surfablity has brought the joy of riding waves into so many people’s lives.
Crowds gather to watch Ben Clifford cut the ribbon on the new Canthed Centre
With the Canthed Centre now up and running, they’ll be able to share the benefits of surfing with even more people who might not otherwise have the chance to enjoy it.
The Canthed Centre has been made possible by funding from Swansea University School of Management. Legal costs were funded by Surfability with help from UnLTD and DLA Piper Solicitors.
To get in touch with Ben and the Surfbaility team, email email@example.com