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EXCLUSIVE: Paralympic champion hand-cyclist backs Moray charity’s vision for Scotland’s first inclusive surfing facility

Paralympian Karen Darke backs Moray charity Surfable's ambitious vision.

Paralympian hand-cyclist Karen Darke has backed a Moray charity’s vision to build Scotland’s first inclusive surfing facility.

Aged 21, she was paralysed from the chest down after a climbing accident at the sea cliffs in Cove.

A two-time world champion in para-triathlon, Ms Darke won gold in the H1-3 time trial at Rio 2016.

This surpassed the silver medal she secured at London 2012.

‘I feel lucky to still be here’

In 2013 while training in Cumbria, she was hit by a car and was told she might never ride again.

However, these experiences have failed to deter her adventurous side.

She said: “I feel lucky to still be here. I have had so many rich experiences in my life.

“I continue to enjoy my adventures.

Cyclist Karen Darke in action.

“It can still be hard to interact with people socially.

“Getting people out with nature is really important.

“When you go through these experiences, people just assume you have completely overcome it.

“I still struggle.”

What is the charity’s vision?

During the summer, she became an ambassador for Surfable Scotland – a project run by Friendly Access.

After piloting the first autism-specific surf in Scotland in 2015, the project was launched to create an inclusive school providing a surf therapy programme for all, including low mobility and wheelchair users.

Since then, the project primarily based in Lossiemouth and Sandend has gone from strength to strength.

The group’s long-term vision is to build a state-of-the-art inclusive surf centre in Lossiemouth.

I always want to use my platform to help promote causes that help people so much.”

Karen Darke

The 50-year-old, who is based in Inverness, told the Press and Journal: “It would be amazing to have such a facility.

“It is all about enabling people to get out and about which is vital.

“This is an incredible vision from Surfable Scotland.

“I always want to use my platform to help promote causes that help people so much.”

Paralympian Karen Darke

Her latest project is Quest 79, where she is keen to work with schools across Scotland to create their own inspirational challenge.

Visit surfable.org.uk to find out more about the project which continues to give users a sense of freedom while gracing the waves.

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