As role models go, Melissa Reid is exceptional.

Not only has the visually impaired athlete from Porthtowan won a Paralympic bronze medal in triathlon, she’s also a globally ranked surfer who has just won silver at the 2023 para surfing world championships in California.

Melissa has no sight at all in her right eye and, with her left eye, can only see a blur. Regardless, her Cornish childhood was spent taking part in activities like cycling, skateboarding and, from the age of eight, surfing.

After joining her dad on an Ironman training programme requiring a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, Melissa decided to focus on becoming a para triathlete. She came second in her very first world championship series race and was subsequently selected in 2012 for the British Para Triathlon Performance Programme.

A back injury in 2017 sadly put an end to Melissa’s triathlete career so she turned, instead, to competitive surfing. 

“I love surfing because I can still compete internationally against the best people in the world,” she said. “I’ve always been very competitive and this time I’m doing a sport that involves my best friend, Matt Harwood. He’s my guide and is brilliant at picking the right waves to go for.

“My goal now is to get surfing selected for the Paralympics and to hopefully get another Paralympic medal. I’ve got a five-year training plan in place to make that happen.”

As well as carving her own spectacular career as an elite sportswoman, Melissa is determined to help others realise their own dreams. To that end, she is an ambassador for GLL’s Sports Foundation (GSF) which provides support for aspiring athletes nationwide.

 In 2023, 84 sports men and women in Cornwall received GSF awards.

“I applied for GSF funding in 2017. Getting it meant I could access gym and pool facilities locally and that made all the difference.”

Operating under the Better brand, GLL is a charitable social enterprise that runs nine leisure centres in Cornwall on behalf of the Council.

“I love being a GSF ambassador because sports training is expensive, and the support provided is invaluable,” said Melissa.

“Physical activity has so many benefits and I really want to help others enjoy it as much as I do.

“Disability shouldn’t ever be a barrier. With the right attitude, anything is possible.”

The GLL Sports Foundation is the largest independent athlete support programme in the UK. 2024 applications open on 20 December. For more information, visit