1717. Ben Clifford
Ben Clifford, from Gower, founded ‘Surfability UK’ to offer adaptive surfing lessons for anyone with additional needs, allowing hundreds of disabled people to experience the positive results of surfing.
Ben set up ‘Surfability UK’ in 2013, the first fully-inclusive surf school in the country, after being invited to volunteer at a surf session in Devon for children with autism, and felt there was more that could be done to improve access into the sport for children with a range of additional needs. ‘Surfability UK’ now operates as a permanent, world-leading facility at Caswell Bay in Gower, running all year round, with indoor skateboarding lessons provided in winter for surfers who find the sea too cold. Ben makes adaptive surfboards for a wide variety of disabilities, including the UK’s first seated tandem surfboard and beach access wheelchairs, and the club has also created a Welsh adaptive surfing team which has competed at World Para championship level. During the pandemic, Ben also made online training and exercise videos to help people at home build their paddle strength, and provided remote coaching.
In a personal letter to Ben, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“As the nation is gripped by the Paralympics, let me thank you for all that you are doing to include more disabled people in sport.
“I was inspired to hear about your specially adapted surfboards, including the UK’s first seated tandem surfboard. You have enabled hundreds of people to get into the water and enjoy the sport you love.
“I wish you the very best and hope ‘Surfability’ continues to ride the wave of success it richly deserves.”
Tonia Antoniazzi, Ben’s local MP for Gower, said:
“I am delighted to hear that Ben and Surfability have been recognised for the amazing experiences they provide for people with additional needs to surf and enjoy the water in Caswell Bay. They do unique, inspiring work and everyone in Gower is proud of them. Ben couldn’t be a more deserving recipient of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award.”
In response to receiving the award, Ben said:
“It was a pleasant surprise to discover that I had been recognised as a Point of Light amongst so many people who work to benefit others. It is really nice to see and celebrate good people. It is my hope however that inclusion in sport soon becomes something that is standard and expected rather than something exceptional. With all the blessings and technology of our age we can be a truly inclusive society.”