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How to surf with a prosthetic arm

This is your go-to guide on how to surf with a prosthetic arm. We'll touch on the following:

  1. Do you need a prosthetic arm to surf?

  2. What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with surfing?

  3. Can you surf with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?

  4. What does it feel like to surf with a prosthetic arm?

  5. Why might someone think surfing with a prosthetic arm could be difficult?

  6. Koalaa’s approach to surfing with a prosthetic arm

  7. User stories - Nicole Brennan

surfing with upper limb difference

Surfing, a sport deeply intertwined with the essence of freedom and connection to nature, has not been exempt from the innovations of prosthetics and assistive technology! The question of whether you can surf with a prosthetic arm is one that carries significant importance for individuals with limb difference who are seeking to enjoy the thrill of the waves with the assistance of tools. We’ll explore the world of surfing with a prosthetic arm, discussing the possibilities and triumphs!


Do you need a prosthetic arm to surf?

Quite simply, no! Many people who have a limb difference are able to surf without the use of a prosthetic arm or adaptive tools. The role of a prosthetic arm is to provide extra support and assistance for individuals with upper limb differences who decide they want one.

The choice to use a prosthetic arm for surfing ultimately depends on the individual's comfort and preferences.


What prosthetic arms and tools are available to assist with surfing?

Surfing is an exciting sport that requires balance, strength, and coordination. Individuals with limb differences are absolutely able to participate in surfing with or without the use of adaptive tools! However, for those who are looking for some adaptive equipment, here are some tools available to assist someone with a limb difference with surfing:

Prosthetic Arms: Prosthetic companies have developed specialised prosthetic limbs designed specifically for surfing. These limbs are often lightweight, water-resistant, and offer greater mobility for paddling and maneuvering on the surfboard.

At Koalaa, our prosthetic arms are soft, lightweight and able to go into the water without damage! We have different tool attachments for different activities including our “Nicole tool” which is the perfect for doing a range of tasks that require bearing weight on your upper limbs, such as surfing!

prosthetic arm for surfing

Adaptive Surfboards: Adaptive surfboards come in various designs to accommodate different levels of mobility and limb differences. These boards are typically wider and more stable than traditional surfboards, providing better balance. They may include features like extended grab rails, additional buoyancy, or modified shapes to suit individual needs.

Board Modifications: Surfboards can be customised with various modifications to make them more accessible for surfers with limb differences. This may include adding handles, straps, or specialised padding to provide extra support and grip for the surfer.

Adaptive Handles: Handles or grips attached to the surfboard can provide extra stability and control for surfers with limb differences. These handles may be positioned at various points on the board to accommodate different techniques and preferences.

Training and Instruction: Adaptive surf schools and instructors offer specialised training for individuals with limb differences. They can teach adapted techniques, safety procedures, and strategies for successful surfing based on the surfer's unique abilities.

Peer Support: Joining adaptive surfing communities and support groups can be invaluable for sharing experiences, gaining encouragement, and learning from others. These communities often provide great encouragement and a platform for surfers to connect.

These adaptive tools and resources are designed to empower individuals to get involved whilst providing extra support for surfing.


Can you surf with a myoelectric prosthetic arm?

Myoelectric prosthetic arms are powered by electrical signals generated by the user's muscles in their limb, which are then translated into specific movements of the prosthetic arm. One thing to check before getting your myoelectric prosthetic arm wet is if the materials used to make the prosthetic are water-resistant and corrosion-resistant!

It may be possible to get a waterproof prosthetic cover for myoelectric prosthetic arms, designed to keep your prosthetic dry and safe during activities that involve water, like surfing!


What does it feel like to surf with a prosthetic arm?

Surfing with a prosthetic arm can be a unique and exhilarating experience, and the sensations and feelings can vary from person to person.

How to surf with a prosthetic arm

Freedom and Empowerment: For some individuals with limb differences, surfing with a prosthetic arm represents a sense of freedom and empowerment. It can allow some people with limb differences to engage in an activity that might have seemed out of reach without an assistive device!

Connection to Nature: Surfing is often described as a profound connection to nature. Riding the waves and feeling the power of the ocean can be a deeply spiritual experience for some surfers bringing a sense of calm and relaxation.

Physical Challenge: Surfing with a prosthetic arm, just the same as without one, can be physically demanding. It requires balance, strength, and coordination, and the effort involved can lead to a sense of accomplishment and physical well-being.

Camaraderie: Surfing often fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie. Individuals who chose to surf using prosthetic arms can find connection with other surfers who share similar experiences, creating a supportive and inclusive environment.

Overcoming Fear: Overcoming the fear of the unknown, especially when navigating waves, can be a powerful emotional experience. It's about confronting perceived barriers head-on and building self-confidence.

Achievement and Progress: Every successful ride can feel like a significant achievement. As surfers improve their skills over time, there is a sense of progress and growth that comes with mastering the sport.

It's important to note that while many individuals who choose to use a prosthetic arm to surf can find it highly rewarding, it can also come with frustration when figuring out what techniques work best for you as an individual. This period can involve continually adapting until discovering what ways are most successful to you!

The feeling of surfing with a prosthetic arm is a complex and deeply personal experience. It encompasses a wide range of emotions, from the thrill of riding a wave to the satisfaction of smashing through barriers.


Why might someone think surfing with a prosthetic arm could be difficult?

Surfing with a prosthetic arm

As a society, some of us perceive using a prosthetic arm as difficult due to a combination of historical norms, limited exposure to prosthetic technology, and assumptions about physical limitations. In the past, prosthetics may have been rudimentary and lacked the functionality required for activities such as surfing. This has led to the idea that prosthetic users might struggle with tasks that involve balance and strength.

The lack of awareness and representation of prosthetics has also contributed to misconceptions. Limited visibility of individuals successfully using prosthetics for activities like surfing has reinforced the idea that such tasks can be challenging.

It's important to challenge these perceptions and embrace a more inclusive perspective. While there may be a learning curve and adjustments involved, individuals who chose to use prosthetic arms can develop remarkable skills using them for surfing. The narrative is shifting towards empowerment and expanded possibilities, highlighting that surfing with a prosthetic arm is not inherently difficult but a skill that can be mastered with determination and the right tools!


Koalaa’s approach to surfing with a prosthetic arm

At Koalaa, our user-centric approach to design ensures that individuals have the tools available if required to assist with various activities, including surfing. Our prosthetic arms are soft, lightweight and made from fabric. Our prosthetic sleeves can be paired with different tool attachments which cater to specific activities including surfing!

Our Nicole tool, named after the person who inspired the design, is perfect for bearing weight on your upper limbs for activities such as surfing! With the mushroom design and non-slip surface, the Nicole tool is great for nailing a pop up on the board.

To celebrate the launch of the Nicole tool, we invited a group of limb different surfers from across the UK to put the new prosthetic tool through its paces at a special launch event held at The Wave, Bristol.

It was awesome to see members of the community having so much fun trying out the new prosthetic tool on the water and getting involved in something new!


User stories of surfing with a prosthetic arm - Nicole Brennan

How to surf with a prosthetic arm

Our surfing tool is named after Nicole who is the person who inspired its design! Nicole was born with a congenital limb difference meaning that her right arm did not fully develop before birth. Nicole is the founder of The IAMPOSSIBLE Foundation, which aims to create a world where ability is not defined by an individual's form or physical appearance.

Nicole likes to spend as much time on the beach as she can and had always wanted to try surfing but felt like it was a sport that was never available to her. We chatted to Nicole to get her thoughts on the surfing tool:

“Being able to push up from the board to a standing position was always a barrier and it’s been amazing to work with the team at Koalaa to create a prosthetic that can make surfing accessible for those with limb differences like mine. It’s a dream come true.”

Projects like these are amazing for giving people the confidence and tools they need to go out there and try new things, such as surfing!


Interested in our tool for surfing?

If you’re interested in our surfing prosthetic tool and want to find out more, check out the link below!

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