By Nathan Davies
Pascale Honore is just like any other surfer, keen to drop everything when the waves are up to find a perfect ride – except when she rides she’s strapped to a friend’s back with duct tape.
In order to surf the waves of the state’s rugged West Coast, paraplegic Pascale and her surfing partner Tyron Swan, 23, have come up with a unique solution involving a roll of the multi-purpose tape and a whole lot of courage.
Before she hits the water, the 50-year-old Elliston, AUS, mother slips herself into a backpack – “just a Kmart special,” she says – with leg holes cut into the bottom. She’s then lifted on to Ty’s back before another helper is called in to wind the silver tape around the pair’s shoulders, waists and legs. Then they go surfing.
Pascale was left paralyzed after a car accident resulted in a T4 spinal cord injury 18 years ago.
“We’d had a day out in Port Lincoln,” Pascale says. “I’d had a couple too many drinks, no seatbelt – I used to have an EH Holden, but I’d just got a new car with power steering. I was talking with my friend and suddenly realized I was on the wrong side of the road and over-corrected. She had her seatbelt on and just ended up with a big bruise. I think I was ejected from the driver’s-side window and fell on some rocks. She was calling for me, and I was yelling out, `I can’t move my legs. I can’t get up.”’
Flown from Elliston to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Pascal has a clear memory of the first words she heard upon emerging from her sedation.
“I just remember waking up with the guy’s head above me and he said: `You’ve had a car accident and you’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.’ He was the surgeon, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just remember thinking, `What are you on about?”’
After five-and-a-half months of rehabilitation, Pascale had accepted the fact that she would never walk again, but was also determined that it wasn’t going to define her life.
“People would say to me, ‘picture yourself walking again.’ One day I just told myself, ‘well maybe I could walk one day, but in the meantime what am I supposed to do?’ That’s when I decided to just get on with it. You either look at what you’ve got or you look at what you haven’t got.”
Born in Paris, Pascale hit the hippy trail after the death of her father when she was 20. Traveling through Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Indonesia, she eventually found herself picking grapes in the Southern Vales.
“I was working in the vineyards when a friend said, ‘do you want to come to Streaky Bay?’ Her car broke down in Elliston, and we had to stay here for a week. That’s when I fell in love with the place.”
A sleepy one-pub hamlet halfway between Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay, Elliston has one thing in abundance – waves. Pascale says she loved watching her boys – Tom and Morgan – surf the waves that break on the reefs outside of town, but couldn’t help but feel frustrated that she couldn’t ride them herself. That’s when Ty, a professional diver and good friend of her sons, came up with a plan.
“We were just sitting around one night, having a few beers when I thought, ‘yeah, I reckon I could surf with Pascale on my back,”’ Ty says.
Eventually that seed of an idea took root, and the pair began to seriously look at the logistics of surfing together.
“Everyone said we were crazy,” Ty says. “Even the loosest people I know said we were crazy. People had all kinds of suggestions, like maybe I should practice with a 45kg backpack on. The only problem is that a 45kg backpack isn’t buoyant like a person is, so if I wiped out I was going straight to the bottom.”
After practicing in flat water behind a mate’s jet ski one day last December, Ty and Pascale decided it was time to try a wave. Towing out to the famous Blackfella’s reef break, the surfers in the water couldn’t quite believe what they were witnessing.
“I knew a couple of guys out there and I told them, ‘we’re gonna catch a wave.’ They were like, ‘you’re gonna what!”’ Ty says.
The first wave they caught was a successful ride, and Pascale says she’ll never forget the feeling.
“I just remember looking up and seeing the colors in the wave, hearing that sound . . . it was all over too soon,” she says. Since that first day the pair has surfed on a number of occasions, slowly refining their unique double act.
Their next adventure involves a trip up the West Australian coast, where pro surfer Ry Craike has promised to tow them into a big wave off Kalbarri.
“We’ve bought an old Toyota Coaster bus with a wheelchair lift on the back,” Pascale says.
“It’s pretty old, but it’ll be alright.”
Having stitched up a new board thanks to Fanatic Surfboards, the pair is looking for just one more thing to make the dream a reality.
“We’d really love a duct-tape sponsor,” Ty laughs.
“We go through a whole heap of it.”