Surfing & Beach Access


“ACCESSIBILITY” Beach Access for ALL

Accessibility has increasingly been the buzz word for the past decade but until the last few years local, state and federal governments have only just started to come to grips with the full spectrum of what it entails to make our beachscapes fully accessible to the general public.

Full Accessibility must include active and passive inclusive strategies to facilitate all people having the opportunity to: 

chairs1/. Get down to the sand in the first place

2/. Be able to cross the sand to the waters edge with dignity (not having to be dragged across on a towel or some similar primitive method)

3/. Being able to enter the water, if one desires, in safety.

The DSA recognises that Full Accessibility involves significant funding. Each council should have an audit done of its beaches with a view to determining which are the most desirable to which to devote such resources. In this audit, the following indices for “Adopt A Beach” should be used:

1/. Where do mass of beach going public go? 

What urbanised locales like Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Sydney, with Newcastle and Illawarra to a slightly lesser degree, this potentially means nearly every beach. In rural areas it will come down to a few – eg in the Shoalhaven they have 130 beaches of which only 3 take the bulk of the beach goers (Shoalhaven Heads, Culburra, Mollymook)

2/. How steep / difficult is it to get from carpark to the sand? 

This is the first major challenge. In nearly every case this will involve Councils having to provide some form of gentle ramping. The critical aspect will be the actual vertical difference from the beach up to the carpark. See below the recently opened (Nov 04) Smiths Beach (Phillip Island) ramp down a vertical distance of approx 20 metres (60′) – it can be done if priorities deem it so.

3/. How does a disabled person or mum with kids in prams etc get across the sand to the waters edge? 

Strategies of matting and/or provision of amphibious wheelchairs are just 2 that can and are being considered.

access_chair4/. Does the beach have a lifeguard or patrol presence? 

This is a most important consideration in nearly all cases where amphibious chairs are being used in a surf location. There would be exceptions to this rule but they would be rare, such as at Gerroa NSW.

5/. What is the profile of the actual beach and its adjacent surf zone? 

This is fundamental when choosing a suitable beach for full accessibility. Look at the Smiths Beach layout – it is perfect. Flat, gently shelving out into the surf. Almost identical to that of Gerroa – a real kiddies corner in nearly all conditions.

6/. Will increased provision for parking for the disabled be provided? 

If a beach is advertised as being fully accessible beach suitable for disabled use, it will attract an increase in vehicles requiring extra consideration. This problem can be acute in high usage areas such as on the Gold Coast eg. at Currumbin Beach.

Summing Up, Councils should audit their beaches with the view to where to concentrate their resources for providing a full accessibility package but many considerations, not purely based on funds as highlighted above, go towards the final determination on just which beaches should be “adopted”.



World First (2005)

Disabled Surfers Association launches it’s latest invention to make it easier and safer to take wheelchair users into the surf. 

Announcing the “SURF SOCK”


“Surfing for people with a disability”