Harrogate boy's joy at surfing lesson in BBC Children in Need

A Harrogate boy who has a brain tumour has had his first-ever surf lesson filmed as part of a special DIY SOS show.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 9:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 9:42 am
BBC Children in Need - Nine-year-old Rowan, from Harrogate, was invited for a surf lesson with Surfability UK.

The BBC One property renovation show teamed up with BBC Children in Need for the DIY SOS Big Build Special, which sees the base of Surfability UK in Caswell Bay, Swansea - originally a rundown bus shelter - transformed beyond recognition.

Surfability UK is the UK’s first fully-inclusive surf school, set up in 2013 by Ben Clifford, who is now a world leader in new teaching methods and safety techniques.

The charity, which supports more than 500 people a year, called in the DIY expertise of Nick Knowles and his trusty team – Mark, Chris, Jules, Billy and designer Gabrielle Blackman – as the bus shelter it was using as its base had no power, running water or ventilation and was often flooded.

As part of the special programme nine-year-old Rowan, from Harrogate, was invited for a surf lesson with Surfability UK.

Rowan has been helped by the Brain Tumour Charity, which receives funding from BBC Children in Need.

Rowan was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was a baby which resulted in a brain injury. Although his prognosis is very good, he has a facial palsy, struggles with his balance and gets very tired.

He uses a wheelchair for long distances but seeks out fun wherever he can – and programme viewers can watch him having his first-ever surfing session with Surfability UK as part of the DIY SOS show.

Rowan said: “I loved surfing and riding the board - the whole experience was so exciting. The teacher was a really good instructor too. So I think lots of boys and girls should try it out too.

“The family days with The Brain Tumour Charity are really fun – it makes me feel less lonely to be around other boys and girls who also have brain tumours. Thank you so much to everyone who donated to the charities to make this happen for me, it’s brilliant.”

Rowan’s mum, Kerry, also thanked BBC Children in Need and The Brain Tumour Charity for their support.

She said: “The compassion of The Brain Tumour Charity’s family support workers benefits families at the most vulnerable times in their lives. They provide a safe space both online, via the telephone service and in person at their events to help parents like me to make sense of our children’s brain tumour journey and to help overcome the isolation of a life-changing diagnosis.

“The family days are an amazing opportunity to connect with others and to be empowered in knowing we are not alone and others are walking our path too. They provide a fabulous source of strength which carries us all through it all.”

The Brain Tumour Charity receives a three-year grant of £136,572 from BBC Children in Need to help support children and young people come to terms with tumour diagnoses, help them feel less isolated and anxious and improve their confidence and well-being.

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Rowan is such an incredible boy who has never let his diagnosis stop him from enjoying all that life has to offer. His family really do all that they can to ensure that Rowan doesn’t miss out. We’re so grateful to the DIY SOS team for providing him with a great opportunity to try out the new Surfability centre and to get out on the water.

“BBC Children in Need provide a valuable lifeline of support to The Brain Tumour Charity by funding our vital children and families support team. The staff, which BBC Children in Need so generously fund, work tirelessly to help reduce isolation and anxiety for young people and their families who have been affected by a brain tumour diagnosis. Together, we give them the help, information, understanding and support that they need at one of the most difficult points in their lives.

“We can’t wait to see how Rowan got on with his surfing lesson as well as the rest of this year’s amazing BBC Children in Need appeal.”

The DIY SOS Big Build: BBC Children in Need special, which will be broadcast on 12 November, sees teams of kind tradespeople volunteering to help revamp Surfability UK’s facilities.

As well as renovating the existing bus shelter into a dry, well-designed surf board storage unit, they build a new innovative Surf Centre, which is the first accessible surf centre in the world, providing a much-needed space to prove surfing opportunities to people with disabilities from across the UK.

Presenter Nick Knowles said: “We were absolutely overwhelmed once again to see the generosity of tradespeople and volunteers, with the time and resources they gave up to help us create such a wonderful new base for Surfability UK – as ever, we couldn’t have done it without them.

“When you see how much fun the children and young people like Rowan have when taking part in these surfing lessons - and the independence and freedom it gives them - you can see just how impactful and life-enhancing the work of Surfability is.”

BBC Children in Need, which is celebrating its 40th year, has funded Surfability UK since 2015. Its current three-year grant of £120,000 provides surf-based activities for disabled children and young people, which helps boost their well-being, helps them better express themselves and equips them with the skills they need to overcome any challenges.

The DIY SOS Big Build: Children in Need Special will broadcast on Thursday, November 12, BBC One, 8pm.

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