The Inspiring Story of A Young Surf Champion from Fuerteventura
World Surfing Day Special
In our recent article about how surf as therapy is empowering adults and children in Fuerteventura, we shared the philosophy of the acclaimed surf school Fuerte Tribu and their approach of making the sport as an educational, inclusive, and accessible tool for all. Surf therapy has already gained fame world over in aiding in minimize deconditioning, optimize physical functioning, and enhance overall well-being making the learner improve social, mental, and co-ordination skills. One such heroic example of overcoming physical disability to rise above with strength and dedication is the inspiring story of Thomas de Leonardo– an 10-year-old young surfer from Fuerteventura.
Fuerteventura Times got a chance to mark the World Surfing Day with an exclusive interview with this little champion, and his mother Suzanna where they share with us their experience on the transformation that the sport has brought to their lives.
Born with a genetic disorder in his feet, little Thomas was unable to do many activities that children his age could. Having a malformation in his feet discouraged his interest in what kids his age would have enjoyed. To his luck, being born in Fuerteventura and having the environment and natural surroundings and a plethora of surf schools for children, Thomas´parents decided to introduce him to surf therapy.
A five-year research by Dr. Hannah Devine-Wright and Catherine Godfrey MSC for The Wave Project on the benefits of surfing as therapy has scientifically proven that the sport, when delivered in a supportive environment, with opportunities for continuation, provides profound long-term benefits on the wellbeing of children and adults. From bringing body balance to strength, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance, to higher mind-body coordination and improved social and emotional skills; the benefits of surf have transformed the lives of many parents and children. Fuerteventura and its supportive and highly professional surf schools like Fuerte Tribu have been instrumental in giving these young children a big leap at an early age, making such environment and facilities available for their betterment and recovery in a fun and exciting way.
Thomas de Leonardo started surf as therapy with Fuerte Tribu when he was really small, and in the past few years he has not only overcome his feet malformation but gone on to become a pro-level surfer at such a young age, now competing for various championships world over, with his latest being in Gran Canary.
“Surf- and all the training that goes behind it, the warm-up at the beach, the equilibrium, the stretching- all the things that this sport embodies has played an important role in Thomas´ transformation and early recovery”, adds Suzanna, the mother of the little champion.
“Additionally Fuerteventura has such a conducive environment, that allows these sweet little angels to appreciate nature and evoke sincere respect towards her. And thanks to surf, they learn about companionship and being there for each other, you´ll always see them giving a helping hand to one another which has further instilled true camaraderie in them. I am so grateful to this sport, and everything that its practice has brought to our lives. Because surfing is not just a physical but a spiritual experience. I hope my son´s experience serves as an encouragement to all the mothers and children to experience this sport because it’s not about just taking the waves, but understanding surfing as a philosophy of life”, expresses Suzanna with deep respect for the sport.
When asked what it is that he loves most about surfing in Fuerteventura, Thomas says “The waves here are sometimes suave, sometimes tough, and it’s not so windy, besides its so much fun to be in the ocean.” According to the young champ, the best places to surf for him are Isla de Lobos and El Hierro. With a strict training schedule every day for hours along with his love for the sport and encouragement and support by his parents, there is no stopping this champion for achieving his dreams.