Young Quadriplegic Gravely Concerned For Local Surfers’ Wellbeing

Ding Alley
Ding Alley

24-year-old Quadriplegic Stephanie Johnson claims she is still coming to terms with her recent excursion to Toonalook Point.

Ms Johnson – wheelchair-bound with Spina Bifida since the age of five and whose every living function requires special assistance – was shuttled with two other disabled companions from their austere institution in Wyuna, the region’s nearby capital city, to spend an hour and a half staring out to sea from Toona Headland last Tuesday.

“While it was a treat to get some fresh air, I couldn't help but be concerned and upset at the distress many of the surfers seemed to be in,” she told Ding Alley yesterday.

Ms Johnson, who has no movement in her limbs and isn’t likely to live past 30, tried to be philosophical as she recounted the trauma faced by the plucky surfers who battled the hardships of not getting every wave they wanted.

“There was a lot of swearing and anger out there, hey.

“It was worse than in any hospital ward I’ve ever been in, and I’ve seen a few.

“If there was some way I could have reached out and helped those poor buggers… but I couldn’t – hey, I can't even wipe my own arse!” she chuckled good-naturedly.

Sensing Ding Alley’s discomfort at her arse-wiping quip, Ms Johnson quickly qualified her comments, saying, “Look, I know that’s an insensitive thing to say, given the seriousness of the issue at hand – from what I saw, these surfers desperately need more waves to maintain a dignified quality of life.

“It makes you wonder about all those millions of dollars raised for research into conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis – this Covid kerfuffle – when clearly so much suffering is felt so keenly out in the water, right under our noses.

“I think the powers that be should at least try to do something – I don't know, maybe divert some funds away from medical research and towards ramping up artificial reef programs, subsidising wave pools – or at least counselling for those hardest hit by the condition of not getting every wave they want.

“I’m not qualified to say, really, but the key here is not to give up hope – to hang on to the thought that maybe, in this lifetime, by some miracle, this condition can be conquered.

“The funny thing is, I’d be prepared to swap places with a surfer – just for an hour – to give them some relief.

“And this may sound bizarre, but I think I might actually enjoy the experience myself, I don't reckon I’d even feel the need to catch a wave.

“I suspect I’d be quite content to paddle around, with my arms and legs doing what my brain told them to do, (God, imagine that!) feeling the sun and the saltwater on my skin – even doing that duckdive thing through the waves – might make a nice change from the wheelchair and bedsores.”

Worn out from the effort of talking, and processing the spectacle of an endeavour where no-one appeared to ever be satisfied, Ms Johnson indicated she was ready to return to her favourite spot – a large window looking inland to Wyuna’s domestic sprawl – where she would spend the afternoon alone with her thoughts until a rostered carer came to feed, change, and put her to bed.

As she was wheeled away, Ms Johnson implored Ding Alley: “Tell all the surfers out there. Stay strong! It might be hard to imagine, but there’s always someone who’s had less waves than you!” 

// DING ALLEY

Ding Alley is illustrator David @macccatoons McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch. 

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 12:29pm

Meeeeow... !

Awesome.

I was actually a little sad at the end. Nicely written.

1173

H2O's picture
H2O's picture
H2O commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 12:45pm

So true -

H20

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 12:55pm

Brilliant!

Perspective eh???

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 1:16pm

Yep. The future for most of us lucky enough to make it to ripe old age: having our bums wiped, drooling, demented; flashbacks to the war or an acid trip... Smoke em' while you got em, but don't get too addicted to one thing.

Al Wiese's picture
Al Wiese's picture
Al Wiese commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 1:17pm

Nailed it!

Rip Snorter's picture
Rip Snorter's picture
Rip Snorter commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 1:20pm

Deft! Clickbait meets parable. Thank you DA!

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 2:39pm

Jeez, that was brutal.

see.saw's picture
see.saw's picture
see.saw commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 4:32pm

Mmmm

kieranol's picture
kieranol's picture
kieranol commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 4:39pm

How humbling .......... !!!!!

rrr's picture
rrr's picture
rrr commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 5:24pm

ouch . brutal , in a way.
but i loved it .
give yourselves a slap people. ah , thats better.

wiseautogas's picture
wiseautogas's picture
wiseautogas commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 5:40pm

always keep life in perspective thanks for the reality check

john wise

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 5:44pm

We’re not worthy .

We’re not worthy.

Thanks so much Ding Alley.

Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf's picture
Captainsurf commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 8:24pm

Brilliant. I get mopey if the wind strengthened from the North, instead of North-West as predicted, even though it's an otherwise perfect day. Wave-sliding really is a ridiculous pursuit.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 9:17pm

Great wake up perspective wise.
Years back one of my best mates got cancer in his spine, paralyzed chest down, surfing over for good. He kept his humour and spirits up through what was an unimaginably difficult time for him. Tragically the cancer got him in the end, but this always gave me an appreciation of how lucky surfers are to paddle out and catch some waves.
Enjoy it, for you may never know when it is your last surf....

Botak

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 9:21pm

Bravo!

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Friday, 20 Nov 2020 at 11:21pm

Not sure whether to laugh or cry ...
As surfers we have so much , and just to be able to even enjoy the ocean in any form is mostly overlooked by the arrogant and ignorant.
A nice pisstake of those that can't appreciate what they have , and a humbling reminder to the rest of us to 'seize the day'..

Hoodie's picture
Hoodie's picture
Hoodie commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 7:56am

I'm not sure.
Very Brave DA.

calk's picture
calk's picture
calk commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 8:49am

I think I'll look at things a little differently today.

Stay grounded, shred heads!

Guzmund's picture
Guzmund's picture
Guzmund commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 10:21am

Wow. Puts things into perspective. Some lessons here.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 10:23am

Oh Gra. Got me right in the feels, mate.

dazzler's picture
dazzler's picture
dazzler commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 1:50pm

I have volunteered for the local Disabled Surfers Association over the years. Currently suspended with bloody COVID but next summer back in the diary.

Pretty humbling and puts a lot into perspective.

Www.disabledsurfers.org

Ben - maybe an article on the work they do?

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 7:10pm

Ms Johnson's sticker spotting doesn't buy her Res Care BDO exemption to the beach.
Steph spends more real time sticker gazing than tbb does on swellnet webcasts.

Govt : "Surf Sticker Spotting is not exempted for Wyuna's compassionate outings."
Steph is now looking at a 6 month jail term & will likely die alone starving in prison.
Or even worse...might even lose 100 penalty points off her Wheelchair licence.

Like Ms Johnson, tbb also catches more bed sores than waves.
tbb : "Steph is a martyr to all us Surf Sticker Spotters".

tbb hit pool therapy early to wince out extra ripples for Utopia Wave Co Telethon..

https://www.swellnet.com/news/ding-alley/2020/08/20/wavepool-proposal-de...

tbb is too unwell to hit the beach but gives a double thumbs up for Toons dreamtime.

[Toon's Fans Disclaimer ]
Care residents dream to be in a Van to grab a glimpse at a pool let alone an Ocean.
Crew share the humour but as surfers we also acknowledge Oz-wide beach ban.
Oz care residents have been banned from beach outings since March 2020.
Crew call for the return of fair & reasonable beach convalescence to all Australians.

tbb salutes the bravest & most punk ever Toons...nailed it!
Crew also supports swellnet Lifeline appeal...have a laugh & havagoodweekend.

PS: res' care updates.
Many States are lifting res' care Beach access restrictions thru November.
States seem to restore access with borders re-opening ...eg: WA res' care is off limits.
Basically as borders close...the res' care beach access rights are the first stripped.
Dare say this reflects Govt insurance rather than Govt Health policy.
eg:
Vaccine (res' care = moderate tier 3) vs (Surfers = lowest BYO priority tier 5)
Beach Therapy (res' care = 100% lock down) vs (Surfers = tier 1 exemption)
* Ding Alley have great insight & well & truly nailed that home!

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein commented Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 at 4:41pm

Fuck hey
I needed that. Not due to any anger in the water but not prioritising being in it in the first place

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 12:03am

We're not here for ever; take nothing for granted.

Has anyone else done disabled surfers? Worth a try.

The comic with the seagulls, I like to imagine all the birds are swearing their boxes off when they squawk. Especially the cockatoos.

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz commented Friday, 27 Nov 2020 at 11:03am

what about the crows, faaaaaaaark.......

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 1:32am

TBB is a prime example of taking nothing for granted..
I for one salute you tbb ..
legend

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 1:56am

Unlike Steph, TBB remembers the stoke, the duckdive. the brown back and the salty tears.

You don't know what you got till you aint' got it. Zenagain salutes TBB.

Be good TBB.

I know you will.

1173

Eric Kopp's picture
Eric Kopp's picture
Eric Kopp commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 7:27am

Gratitude.....................

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 9:04am

Understated but hard hitting stuff and a call out too. Wake up and smell the Roses people. (and 3hour sessions for 2 waves is the new normal). Incisive cartoon might look good on a limited edition swellnet T-shirt

Quint's picture
Quint's picture
Quint commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 3:56pm

Ugh... social engineering. Again.

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 10:30am

G'day Quint. Interesting observation. Reckon you might be giving Ding Alley a bit too much credit here though mate? Engineering implies some kind of sophisticated thinking and smarts. 'Social' Engineering (I had to look it up) implies some kind of sneaky coercion. IMO, I think criticisms that could be leveled more accurately at Ding Alley would include (but not be limited to) trying-too-hard, repetitiveness, over-writing, repetitiveness, and coming over a little too pompous and patronising sometimes. But as far as being architects of manipulation we're just not that good or clever, or have any reason to. Sure, there's often some some moral attached to these little fictions, (usually delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer)... so I'm wondering if this what you take exception with? Hey if ya wanna yak, sling Stu an email and he'll pass on my number and/or email addy no worries. Cheers.

Chris Tacke's picture
Chris Tacke's picture
Chris Tacke commented Sunday, 22 Nov 2020 at 8:18pm

Broke my neck surfing c7. looked at a ceiling for three days on a spinal board waiting for the specialist to finish his golf holiday, got the all clear, 12 weeks in a neck brace, those three days best life lesson ever, still surfing, lowered my expectations, two okay waves and l am happy, and happy just to float around looking..about

Aron van Staden's picture
Aron van Staden's picture
Aron van Staden commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 9:54am

That’s brings another perspective. “Depache Mode” sang it best:
The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves after all
It's a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

rj-davey's picture
rj-davey's picture
rj-davey commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 10:36am

Very good

Just Floating's picture
Just Floating's picture
Just Floating commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 12:38pm

Nice reminder Gra. So easy to forget how good we have it some times.

I got to surf Cloudbreak for one week of my 47 years on this planet. Dreamed of it since I was 16 got to do it when I was 41. First hour in the water I was struggling to adjust to the speed of the wave, pissed off at the crowd and had an absolute dick of an attitude. Then I suddenly looked around, beautiful reef break in the middle of the pacific ocean, having a crack at one of the worlds best waves, literally living a dream - took a breath and had a ball.

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 2:13pm

The two truths of surfing. It's fun AF and it will turn you into a cunt if you let it. If you gave me a choice of hanging out with 5 random surfers or 5 random skaters, I'd choose the latter every single time. If water dished out bigger beatings like skateboarding maybe it would level our egos?

I consistently remind myself these days when I'm walking out of the surf, beautiful weather, light offshore winds, no COVID(!), gotten plenty of waves, perfectly healthy with full use of my physical and mental abilities that I should be nothing but fucking grateful, no matter who snaked ME, got in the way of ME, dropped in on ME or thinking about how I blew a wave or bogged a turn. We should be nothing but grateful and humble for our lot in life.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 2:29pm

Great reality check there Gra, puts it all into perspective.

curbs's picture
curbs's picture
curbs commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 3:46pm

Great work Gra. At last count, 7.7 billion people wanted my life.

Huggy's picture
Huggy's picture
Huggy commented Monday, 23 Nov 2020 at 4:59pm

Boom. Nice one.

Logical's picture
Logical's picture
Logical commented Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020 at 11:49am

There are simply 3-5 times the number of guys out as the number of waves available.

Do everything you can to stop promoting this sport that just creates more unwanted surfers.

1. Stop holding comps and stop joining clubs.
2. Buy local boards from local shapers. The more money big name surf brands get the more they spend on promoting surfing to create more customers (bloody people in the line up).
3. Do not turn up to pro events or their comps. When the media sees no one goes, they also will stop putting it on TV as no demand.

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz commented Friday, 27 Nov 2020 at 11:27am

I agree but I also cringe when I hear surfing described as a 'sport'. Is ballet a sport? I appreciate seeing people surf well but a surf comp to me is like having a dance-off, I mean who invented dance-offs? Going for a surf is not, and never was or will be, a competition. Wankers. Don't get me started on airs either! looks impressive over concrete, above water it's just pathetic. Touching story *End rant.

Parko_70's picture
Parko_70's picture
Parko_70 commented Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020 at 12:14pm

Well done....

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020 at 1:41pm

Nice work, as usual Toona scribes.

Not too heavy on sentimentality GM, or repetitive at all. I know if I had written it, it would be far less subtle (your sledgehammer = my nuclear device). I can go on a bit!

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Friday, 27 Nov 2020 at 6:51am

If you participate in a few other outdoor sports where resource scarcity is not an issue you realise that scarcity of quality waves is THE issue in surfing that flows through to many of our less savoury attitudes and some of the bile on surfing forums and dislike of the "surfing industry".

Go mountain biking and find 20 cars in the car park at the base of the trail and more pulling up = no big deal, no stink eye and minimal impact on the day's fun. The same in surfing can mean not just a few less waves, it can mean almost no waves for the average surfer - a very frustrating experience.

A shift in perspective, lowered expectations and being less greedy can definitely help but it can't hope to turn crowded Snapper into a sharing fun time for all. It ain't just our fault for being grumpy.

Frogg

winston.white's picture
winston.white's picture
winston.white commented Thursday, 26 Nov 2020 at 7:16pm

Grateful I can still wipe my own arse and if I get one good wave I'm happy
Luckily our beach breaks have plenty of banks/ peaks to spread out, there is one point break that attracts a lot of grumpy old and young as whens its on its the best wave locally ... paddle battle Medinas