I contacted the school; the reservation was simple and direct. A one-night stay is also quickly found. Since I don’t have a driver license and a car, so the public transportation was an issue for me. I tried online to make my train trip to Germany and France and noticed when booking I cannot enter that I have a disability card. There are different conditions for people with reduced mobility.
So, I went to the Service of the “Deutsche Bahn” and discussed the problem there. The manager told me that my disability card would not be valid in France and I need a French passport, they tell me anything stupid! Which of course is not Possible, because I have to be registered in France! My surfing vacation seem literally to fall into the water. Disappointed and sad I took the brochure mobility service with me and went up home.
I read the booklet and recognize that the way I was treated at the Station was not right, because in the brochure restricted people can easily travel across Europe. I then went to another station and present again my Problem and see the lady at the counter was very accommodating. Through her, I still find out that it is not easy to travel. I Have to change the station in Paris-Est and take the metro to Gare Montparnasse. And this clearly doesn’t work. Because the subway station is not accessible, unfortunately. So now I feel like I’m being punished! It may not be that my trip should fail because I couldn’t arrive by train? I’m not allowed to ride alone with the travel bus because of insurance coverage and in addition the driver is not allowed to help. What is going on? Never thought that it will be so difficult to travel alone as a wheelchair user in Europe!
Inspired by my wave rider’s friends from America, I also wanted to master this trip in Europe independently. The fact that the conditions are so difficult encourages me even more.
Because I still want to travel with the train I went to the Jack Wolfskin shop for looking for a bag. I was made aware of Andreas Pröve. A wheelchair driver who travels alone with his Handi-bike through the world and he also talk about his experiences. I got in touch with him and he just said to me you see that’s the reason I don’t like travelling through Europe. It seems like that travelling around the globes is for wheelchair users much easier than travelling through Europe! Accessible through Europe is only on paper very simple and straightforward. In reality, however, there is a lack of implementation, perhaps the railway companies should cut off a slice of the airlines.
Flying was the easiest way for us to travel. The booking of the flying ticket is clear and straightforward. The arrival in Biarritz was very pleasant. I even got paid by Air France the taxi back and forth from Paris to Orly. By taxi I then drove to the camping and stayed for the first time in life in an accessible mobile home.
The camping was about 3 km away from my surf school. I could either do a nice long walk or ride the bus. The bus drove at certain times and had a ramp and the drivers were very helpful. In the beginning it was very unusual for me to buy a ticket, because I’m used to, in Germany, drive with my disabled card for free with public transportation.
I was able to move freely during my entire time there. Restaurants, shops, paths were very accessible for the wheelchair. There is even a “Handi-beach”, connected to the Marine Hospital of Hendaye, which accommodates severely handicapped patients or people who bears rare diseases. The Handi-beach is a special beach section only for people with disabilities i.e. they are all the equipment needed to get into the water like beach mats, beach wheelchair and extra staff if help and support is needed.
After I found an apartment near the beach, I decided to change the accommodation. The apartment was very close to Gogoko my favorite restaurant. All the vegetables and fruits there are fresh, and the chef Daniel prepares healthy and nutritious organic meals every day, which are always delicious.
The young team at Lehena have also specialized in adaptive surfing. The team of Ecole de Surf Lehena is very open and friendly. I immediately felt very comfortable. They are trained to teach people with different disabilities to surf. The excellent work of Lehena has made Maixi Cabanne the French national surf champion because they train the French national team they were able to present in La Jolla 2016. Through their work, they have realized how important the element water is for the further development of people who are handicapped. In America I have been surfing the board sitting and getting to know the paddle, but they use only one board and the body’s ability. The kneeling position is preferred, if this is possible of course, otherwise standing or lying down/Prone. Depending on the handicap and physical possibilities. For me, surfing at the knee was recommended. The lessons were very intense and fun at the same time. I had the chance to try different surfboards until we found the perfect fit for me. I love to surf in this way, which I was able to fill and lead the surfboard better. The greater my respect for all those who surf while sitting. I also had the chance to have met Jean-Marc Saint Geours from Association of Handi-Surf.
I have learned the country and met great people and I was really surprise at how I could have managed that alone, even I was never alone. I was able to move independently and freely. Restaurants, hotels and walking trails are accessible.
Surfing has grabbed me and the ambition to participate in competitions is awakened. I have contacted the DWV-German Wave Rider Association. They were very pleased with my motivation, since surfing has been appointed to the Olympic discipline, it is also in their interest to get more adaptive athletes to participate in the Paralympic games.
When the ISA World championships stood at the door, I just had to register, because for the first time there was a women’s Division. I must do it because there was no reason to not represent Germany.
I signed up as usual with the DWV-German “Wave Rider” Association.
Luckily, my friends from America and the ISA team helped me. To prepare myself for my first competition, I spontaneously took part in La Jolla Shore in a small competition, lost in the water with a foreign surfboard, Travis Long came to my aid. I was the last one in this competition, but it was all about experience. Travis is a tandem surfer, which means he and his partner make lever figures on the longboard. When I told him that I was going to take part in the World Cup and unfortunately did not have a real surfing experience and also no coach, he offered to be my coach at short notice. After I got my own equipment, we started training. He also modified my board. In addition, I had the guys from England from www.surfingengland.org They also trained with me. I have known so many helpful people
With the help of Travis Long I could also sign up for a sponsorship at Challenged Athletes Foundation.