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Waipū Cove beachwheels helps Auckland wheelchair user into the water 20 years later

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Auckland’s Latifa Daud had a memorable day out at Waipū Cove. Photo / Becki Moss

Nearly 20 years have passed since an Auckland woman with muscular dystrophy felt the ocean on her skin.

But Latifa Daud, 29, has been reunited with the water thanks to a sand-friendly and waterproof wheelchair provided by Waipū Cove Surf Life Saving Club and Camp Waipū Cove.

Two weekends ago Daud headed north with family members to enjoy a break in Waipū Cove where holidaying was more accessible for her, she said.

Waipū Cove volunteer surf lifeguards showcase the beachwheels shortly after their arrival. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Waipū Cove volunteer surf lifeguards showcase the beachwheels shortly after their arrival. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The last time Daud had been in the water was in 2003 before the effects of her condition dramatically altered her life.

“My muscular dystrophy didn’t start to show until I was 10 years old. Then I stopped doing outdoorsy stuff,” she said.

The classic Kiwi childhood spent on the beach and among the surf surrounded by family became a completely different experience.

“Been born in Auckland, the beach was your upbringing – every summer, Christmas, New Year’s was spent there,” Daud said.

Her wheelchair can’t cope with sand so she can go only as far as the grass goes.

“Sometimes it’s okay because the view at a beach can still be quite nice,” Daud said.

But picking a beach had become more selective as she preferred ones where hills or trees don’t block the sight of the surf, otherwise “what’s the point?”, she said.

“I can go to a lookout as long as it’s a nice day, there’s a good view, good conversation, nice breeze and all that – it’s fine.”

Daud thought she would never be able to swim at the beach so put it permanently out of mind.

“I’ve never felt mad or upset, to be honest, I had kind of given up on the idea of ever going into the water,” she said.

A lack of confidence and concerns about safety kept Daud from taking up “the couple of opportunities” she had since becoming a wheelchair user – until Waipū Cove.

Waipū Cove, south of Whangārei. Photo / Tania Whyte
Waipū Cove, south of Whangārei. Photo / Tania Whyte

“This time I thought, why not?”

So Daud’s cousin booked a beach wheelchair through Camp Waipū Cove.

And together with her cousin, nephew and aunt she entered the surf for the first time in decades – where a big wave crashed “right over” her head.

“I thought, ‘oh my God’, and was swallowing the salt water,” Daud said.

“All of that which I had forgotten about. It was a really nice trip down memory lane.”

Daud said every person with disabilities should have the opportunity to have the quintessential beach experiences that form so much of the Kiwi lifestyle.

“Just to have that access and that freedom to feel that, to feel what I got to, is so important.”

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