To make smiles and help disabled people, from the north to the south of the country, to surf. These are the main aims of SURFaddict – the Portuguese Adapted Surfing Association – which TAP supported with the organisation of its most recent event, the “Smile Factory”, on Madeira last Saturday. The national airline was the association’s official carrier, enabling a number of people to ride the waves, regardless of their disability and, as part of the “Embrace Portugal” programme, to promote the Madeira Autonomous Region both as a popular tourist destination and as a good place for surfing.
Association president, surfer and former Paralympic swimmer, Nuno Vitorino, said: “SURFaddict is about changing lives, and this time we have come to Madeira so that anyone with a disability can give surfing a go”. Teresa Abraços, the association’s vice-president, surfer and trainer, highlighted TAP’s involvement in this event. As she was leaving Lisbon, she said: “The company is to be commended for its attitude in supporting this inclusive project. TAP’s support is fantastic, and it also shows us that any disabled passenger can fly comfortably and travel our country to take part in sport.”
The chosen location was the beach at Porto do Seixal, on the north of the island. A dozen people took the opportunity to spend a unique day trying out a radical sport, without parting with a single cent. Following detailed instructions and finding a strategic position on the water, 12 volunteers oversaw the action and took the young surfers out onto the waves.
It was clear to see that the purpose of the event had been achieved: huge smiles, barriers overcome and a huge desire to get back surfing. For Sérgio Soares, a member of the Portuguese Disabled Association who took part, this was a chance to safely take part in a challenging sport. Eduarda Paiva, was in the Azores when she first contacted SURFaddict about surfing in Madeira. “This is the third time I have surfed with the association and had this feeling of total freedom. On the water it’s like we’re walking, flying. There are no words to describe this experience.”
Dina Cravo, TAP’s representative in Madeira, was almost overwhelmed. She said: “In my view, and given TAP’s strong presence in Madeira, it makes complete sense for the company to be associated with this group and to show people that Madeira is not just a holiday destination for tourists, but a destination for everyone - excluding no-one.” Apart from providing transport, TAP’s office in Madeira also provided the association and its volunteers with logistical support.
Established in 2012, SURFaddict is the first adapted surf association in Europe. It aims to create a national movement that will allow people with disabilities to enjoy the sea, to offer training to surfing schools and to create a large movement of volunteers within the surfing community. A non-profit organisation, the Association also champions the rights of surfers with reduced mobility to have access to beaches and water sports and to promote surfing nationally within this group.