An eight-year-old girl has been able to ride the waves thanks to a state-of-the-art prosthetic arm.
Joanie Melady, was one of the first people in the world to try out the new tool designed to help surfers with upper body limb differences to push up to standing on their board.
Joanie who lives with her mum, dad and sister in Chinnor, was born with a congenital limb difference, meaning that her left arm did not fully develop before birth.
While she’s never let that hold her back, some activities can prove a little more tricky.
However, when she was invited to attend a special surf session held at inland surfing venue, The Wave in Bristol, it seemed she was born to do it.
Dad Alan said: “Joanie had never tried anything like this before but she’s really sporty and was super excited to get out there and give it a go. Turns out, she’s a natural!
“She smiled the whole time and as soon as she had ridden one wave in, she was straight back out there to catch the next one.
"The prosthetic gave her the confidence and support she needed to push up from the board to standing.
"I’ve surfed a few times before but she was way better than me! We’re so proud of her.”
The prosthetic has been developed by UK startup Koalaa, and after months of development and a successful trial, is now available for surf fans around the world.
It is a soft fabric sleeve that can be fitted with different tool attachments, depending on the task the user would like to do.
The prosthetic is named ‘Nicole’ after Nicole Brennan, who has a below elbow limb difference and has worked closely with the team at Koalaa on the design.
Ms Brennan, who also took part in the surf session, is founder of The IAMPOSSIBLE Foundation, one of the only disabled-led charities for those with limb differences in the UK.
She said: “I spend as much time on the beach as I can and have always wanted to try surfing but never felt like it was a sport that was available to me.
"Being able to push up from the board to a standing position was always a barrier and it’s been amazing to work with the team at Koalaa to create a prosthetic that can make surfing accessible for those with limb differences like mine.
"Projects like this, which give people the confidence and tools they need to go out there and try new things, show that anything is possible, and that’s huge.”
Koalaa and The Wave have also created a limited edition sleeve cover which can be bought with the Nicole tool, a percentage of each sale then going towards The Wave’s adaptive surf club.
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