Eight-year-old surfer from near Thame one of first to try 'amazing' new prosthetic

A girl living near Thame became one of the first people in the world to trial a new prosthetic arm.
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Joanie Melady, who lives with her mum, dad and sister in Chinnor, tried out a new prosthetic at a special surf session.

Described as the first of its kind, the new support mechanism has been created to help surfers with upper body limb differences to ‘pop-up’ on their board.

This special showcase was held at the UK’s largest inland surfing venue, The Wave in Bristol.

Joanie Melady from ChinnorJoanie Melady from Chinnor
Joanie Melady from Chinnor

Joanie 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.

Alan Melady, Joanie’s dad, 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.

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“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.”

Joanie at The WaveJoanie at The Wave
Joanie at The Wave

Supplier, Koalaa’s design is a soft fabric sleeve being worn that can be fitted with different tool attachments, depending on the task the user would like to do.

Creators worked to discover a way to allow people with limb differences a way to pop-up onto surfboards.

It has been named ‘Nicole’ after the individual who inspired its design by the UK-based business.

Koalaa has now released the product worldwide, after a successful trial period and months of development.

Nicole Brennan, who has a below elbow limb difference and has worked closely with the team at Koalaa on the design of the new prosthetic. It has been named in her honour.

Nicole 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.”

More information on the supplier is available online, as well as more details on the surfing venue in Bristol, which can be found here.

Nick Hounsfield, founder of The Wave, added: “We have always been passionate about making surfing accessible to all. Our whole space has been designed to be truly accessible, our surf coaches are trained to provide specific adaptive surf training for those with different needs and we have been huge supporters of Team England Adaptive for a number of years.”

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