Published Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Blind surfers take to the waves at Benone. (© Guide Dogs NI)
Complete with specially adapted boards, the group braved the cold waters of the Atlantic at the weekend.
"It was such an exhilarating experience to get out in the waves," Derry man Brian McDonagh, who has been with his guide dog Innis for the past three years, said.
The fund-raising event was supported by Long Line Surf School, who have developed a raft of specialised courses for people with a wide range of disabilities.
Dan Lavery took the group under his expert care and was bowled over by their enthusiasm for taking part.
"To get a wetsuit on, jump on a surfboard and trust a surf instructor to be in complete control is something that I would find hugely intimidating myself," he admitted.
"But we created a relaxed atmosphere for the lesson, just had a laugh and just surfed some waves. It was so rewarding to be able to provide this experience and to be able to meet these amazing people."
It was Dan who initially came up with the idea, after meeting a Guide Dogs volunteer at an information event.
"I've always thought that it is so important to make sure that disabled people don't feel left out of the world of sport, so I put together training to help make my love of surfing as accessible as possible," he said.
And his efforts certainly paid off.
Fresh from his surfing experience, Brian declared: "Dan and the guys from the school made it so easy for us to get to grips with and it's really given me a taste of what I can do - water-skiing is next on the list!"
Guide Dogs NI relies entirely on donations and fund-raising, with the lifetime cost of each guide dog partnership reaching around £50,000.