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Newbury schoolgirl and surfer crowned for her courage

Elsy Williams has been honoured by The Wave Project charity

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

Newbury schoolgirl and surfer crowned for her courage

A NEWBURY schoolgirl who surfs to overcome the troubles caused by a rare auto-immune disorder has been honoured with a prestigious award.

Elsy Williams, a pupil at St Gabriel’s School, received the accolade for courage at The Wave Project’s annual awards night on Saturday, November 24.

The Wave Project is a charity which brings young people together through surfing, to help them feel less anxious and more positively engaged, while improving their wellbeing.

Elsy, 11, scooped the charity’s prestigious courage award in recognition of her determination to surf, despite having an acute auto-immune disorder.

Elsy was one of eight winners chosen from more than 2,000 participants, volunteers and surf coaches who have worked with the charity over the past year. 

Elsy received her award from former British Olympic track cycling champion Victoria Pendleton and winter Olympic snowboarder Jenny Jones.

Miss Pendleton, who was also announced on the night as the charity’s new patron, spoke about the importance of living life with courage.

She said: “Courage is not something you’re born with or can train, it is simply there for you when you need it. 

“Courage is something we should take pride in finding within ourselves and also passing on to others, through encouragement.”

Elsy is one of more than 1,000 young people that The Wave Project has worked with this year and will continue to support next year.

Her family discovered the charity when her father Mark turned 50 and decided to hold a surf party in Cornwall to celebrate.

They met a surfing instructor, a volunteer with the charity, who suggested Elsy could benefit from the scheme.

Due to the severity of her condition, Elsy – who has a list of 27 different allergies – cannot travel abroad, but relishes the enjoyment and the thrill she feels when surfing, as her fears and troubles are forgotten.

Elsy’s mother Lisa Miles said: “Taking part in The Wave Project has transformed Elsy’s life. 

“At home and at school she has to wear gloves and be so careful with her allergies, but put her on the beach and her anxieties melt away and she can just be herself. 

“The Wave Project has given her a safe space to be herself and that’s invaluable.”

Elsy and her mother, who travel to Cornwall every six weeks so that Elsy can surf, are now planning to cycle from Newbury to Cornwall at Easter to raise money for the charity. 

After being presented with her award, enthusiastic Elsy even suggested to Miss Pendleton that she accompany her on part of the route – which Mrs Miles said would take at least five days to complete.

Mrs Miles added: “Elsy is not allergic to sand or salt water, so when she surfs, she feels the same as everybody else.

“The whole experience is just absolutely fantastic for her – Elsy comes to life down in Cornwall.”

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