Joanie Melady, an eight-year-old girl from South Oxfordshire, UK, became one of the first to test a new prosthetic arm that can help people with upper limb loss and difference surf. She tried the surfing prosthetic arm at the UK’s largest inland surfing spot, The Wave in Bristol.
Melady was born with a congenital limb difference. Her left arm did not fully develop before birth. According to her father, Alan Melady, the surfing prosthetic arm gave his daughter the confidence she needed. Despite surfing for the first time, Melady was a “natural” on the water.
“The prosthetic gave her the confidence and support to push up from the board to standing. I’ve surfed a few times, but she was way better than me! We’re so proud of her,” her father said.
Koalaa, a UK-based startup, developed the prosthetic arm. They are on a mission to make prosthetics accessible, affordable, and comfortable for anyone.
Besides Melady, the company invited Nicole Brennan to test the prosthetic arm. Brennan has a below-elbow limb difference, and she has worked closely with the team on designing the prosthetic. The company has even named the new prosthetic arm the ‘Nicole’ in Brennan’s honor.
According to Brennan, who is also the founder of The IAMPOSSIBLE Foundation, the prosthetic arm by Koalaa allowed her to “pop up” from the surfboard, which she hasn’t been able to do. “I have always wanted to try surfing but never felt like it was a sport available to me,” she said.
“It’s been so amazing to see members of the limb different community having so much fun trying out the new prosthetic on the water,” said Nate Macabuag, founder of Koalaa. “Enabling people to go for it and to try new things, or even just helping to make everyday tasks a little easier is why we do what we do.”
The prosthetic arm features a soft fabric sleeve that can be worn and fitted with different tool attachments, depending on the prosthetic user’s task, including yoga, biking, carving, and guitar playing.The Nicole is now available for surfing enthusiasts of all ages around the world. For more information, please visit Koalaa’s website.