Skip to content
Text Size: A A A
Latest News 16 December 2021

Sun, sea, sand and surfing in Cornwall with Blesma

Fancy going from novice to gnarly with a week of surfing and yoga in Cornwall? It's time to zip up your wetsuit, grab a board and paddle out into the waves!

Husband and wife team Stu and Lizzie Croxford complement each other perfectly in their working relationship.

“A lot of what Stuart does is adrenaline driven,” says Lizzie, “and I offer the other side – calming people down afterwards!”

The pair, who run the Blesma Surf and Wellbeing course close to their home in Bude, Cornwall, seem to have found a winning formula. Their day-to-day business, ThreeZero12, offers a number of different activities: Blesma Member and single-leg amputee Stu coaches stand-up paddle-boarding, cycling, surfing and physical conditioning, while Lizzie has qualifications in yoga, pilates, sports massage and physiotherapy.

For the Blesma course, they’ve combined two of their favourite activities. Stu loves to catch a wave on the stunning Cornish coast and wants to share his passion with other amputees. Lizzie, meanwhile, has discovered that yoga can make a massive difference to the lives of Blesma Members, for whom mobility, flexibility and balance can all be challenging.

Blesma Bude Sept 2021 3
each morning Members enjoy time in the yoga studio
Blesma Bude Sept 2021 22
followed by time surfing

The week-long course eases Members into both, and you don’t need previous experience (although you do need to be able to swim).

It follows a simple formula: each morning Members have a yoga class with Lizzie, easing some of the aches and pains, before taking part in two surf sessions with dedicated instructors. This is all broken up by great spreads of food in a beach hut and endless cups of tea and coffee. In the evening, there’s a group meal – then it’s off to bed, exhausted and exhilarated, before it’s time to get up and do it all over again.

Stu used surfing as part of his rehab. He joined the Army in 2007 and was a Captain in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment when he was injured in Afghanistan in 2012: an IED blew up his Jackal vehicle, shattering his heels. He had reconstruction, but developed Compartment Syndrome after a sailing accident.

Numerous operations followed to try to save his right leg, but it was amputated below the knee in 2014. Stu later got involved in Thundercat powerboat racing, and it was while working at the Endeavour Fund that he decided to give surfing a go. The fact that this coincided with a family move to Cornwall, the focus of the UK surf scene, also helped move things along.

Forget the crazy stuff

“I was already paddleboarding, and so understood how to balance. Then I met a bunch of veterans surfing in Bude and started to go more regularly,” Stu explains.

“I can catch a few waves, but I’m definitely not a good surfer,” Stu says. “But I like the fact that I still have so much to learn with surfing. There is no particular standard required; anyone can have a go at any level. It’s not an elitist sport, and half of the fun is just paddling out, floating around and having a chat with the guys. So we knew it would be good as a course for Members.

I just love being on the water. You don’t have to think about whatever crazy stuff is going on in your life – when you get on the water, it’s all gone. It’s real therapy.

Stu Croxford

I’ve seen weeks like this being run out in the US, and when Lizzie and I moved to Cornwall we realised that there would be potential for something here, too.”

For those not in the know, it’s surprising how good the quality of the waves can be in Cornwall.

“With the pandemic, people haven’t been travelling abroad much,” says Stu, “so everyone has started to discover what Britain has to offer, including surfing. We’ve got some really amazing waves in places like Cornwall and Wales, and people don’t often realise it’s on their doorstep.”

Blesma Bude Sept 2021 21
The Pandemic meant that people got to see more of what Britain has to offer - including surfing!

The six Members on the course arrive with a variety of injuries, fitness levels and expectations, but Stu has the same plan for all of them.

"I think a lot of people look at surfing and think they’ll never be able to do it, or our amputees think they won’t be able to stand up on the board,” he says.

“But we don’t worry about any of that, and set out to take people to whatever level they can reach. It may be standing up and catching a wave or it may be bodyboarding – there are lots of ways around it.”

Learning at your own speed

“We make sure that everyone on the course has their own instructor, who is in the water with them at all times. It helps with safety, and means the Members can learn at their own speed,” Stu continues.

“And focusing on a small group of six Members allows everyone to bond together more quickly. We get to know each other well in no time, so the social side of the course is really nice. I think with that in place, everyone realises that there is a group of people behind them, supporting them to achieve their goals. That makes what we are asking people to do more achievable, and it also helps us to push everyone along a little bit!

Blesma Bude Sept 2021 44
We make sure that everyone on the course has their own instructor, who is in the water with them at all times.

“Some people do things very quickly and others take more time. That doesn’t matter as long as everyone is enjoying themselves. And everybody here has had a big, beaming smile on their face all week.” 

You can't put a price on it

There’s something all-consuming about the enjoyment of catching the surf and being propelled along at speed, and the Cornish air is full of laughter throughout the sessions. The instructors soon have several Members up and away, with Stu keeping a keen eye on everyone involved.

Even the locals seem impressed, with cheers coming from the beach whenever a Member catches a good wave. The group are also inspired by Martin Pollock, a former soldier who lost three limbs to an IED in Afghanistan and has since become a gifted surfer.

“He’s a real mentor – for me and for the others here this week,” says Stu. “Having him here, and seeing him surfing some big waves, is so motivating. He’s an incredible person.”

Member Grant Jenkins agrees: “Martin is so impressive, from the way he gets into his buggy and then out onto the waves, and then the way he surfs… he is mesmerising. He shows that anyone can do it, and we have all followed his lead.”

Stu takes GoPro footage of the Members as they cut through the swells, and once everyone is weary and the day is done, it’s time to relax for the evening. As the sun sets slowly over the beach, things couldn’t be much better. In the morning, they’ll be up again, enjoying some relaxing yoga with Lizzie, before heading back to the ocean. It’s supremely balanced yin and yang.

Member Mitchell Singleton perhaps sums it up best: “Everything about the course has been fabulous, from the way they have looked after us at the club to the lady making the cakes and sandwiches,” he says. “To be honest, the entire week was perfect. I couldn’t put a price on it.” 

Blesma Bude Sept 2021 41
Member Martin Pollock was an inspiration to the team. He is currently competing in the Para surfing world championships.

Leave a comment

Join fellow Members and supporters to exchange information, advice and tips. Before commenting please read our terms of use for commenting on articles.

Login to post as yourself