Disability in Surfing … For many years in Australia there have been surfers that have had to overcome some sort of disability to be able to get back into the ocean and surf. These surfers have proven themselves to be resilient and creative by adapting their own techniques and equipment to achieve this with help from their friends in the surfing community.
While surfing with any kind of disability is no easy-feat, surfing in a competitive situation creates a whole new level of difficulty and expertise. That’s why Surfing Australia has helped set up and support the nudie Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles alongside the Adaptive Surfers of Australia (ASA).
Adaptive Surfing competitions started in 2015 in La Jolla California, when over 75 entrants from 18 countries competed in four divisions as part of the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) World Adaptive Surfing Championships. Australia was hot on the heels of its American counterpart to launch an Aussie version of the championships, and fast-forward to 2019, and the nudie Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles has become a staple at the Australian Surfing Championships, running in it’s 4th year.
This year’s nudie Australian Adaptive Surfing Champions was held at Fingal on the NSW North Coast and featured 6 divisions:
- MIXED – (AS2 / AS3 / SUP) – (Stand / Kneel / Stand up Paddle Board or SUP & Seated)
- AS VI – (Visually impaired)
- AS5 – (Non-Standing / Assist)
- AS4 – (Prone)
- AS1 – WOMEN (AS1 / AS-1LL) – (Stand/Kneel – AS-1UL – Upper Limb, AS-1LL – Lower Limb)
- AS1 – MEN (AS1 / AS-1LL / AS-1 1 (Stand/Kneel – AS-1UL – Upper Limb, AS-1LL – Lower Limb)
Surfing Australia provide a PDF to see how the impairments break down into each division, which gives you an even better idea of the actual ability and courage of competitors. Take a look at that here: https://sa-sacom-public.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/asset/1xtEjetKgbmQLlrZ0A78OD5NaofYrSGESuqqey6a.pdf
The Winners from the 2019 Titles were:
MIXED – Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart
AS VI – Matt Formston
AS5 – Samantha Bloom
AS4 – Gavin Bellis
AS1 – WOMEN – Kate Crosbie
AS1 – MEN – Dale Taylor
Adaptive surfing icon Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart was in first-class form at this year’s event, and in his articulate way, summed up the progression of adaptive surfing:
“It’s great to see Surfing Australia putting wave quality first over access to the beach and including us in the Australian Surf Championships. That’s a real step forward for our sport. The young people getting involved is also great to see. I’ve never surfed here before (Leticia Spit) and it’s a great spot,”
With beach accessibility growing in focus for councils around the country, surfing is becoming more of an option for those with disability. The sport’s wide range of health and social benefits mean it’s a great fit people looking for a fun and social outdoor activity that historically has been more difficult to take part in. It’s fair to say that representation of Disability in Surfing is growing!
Jake White, Surfing Australia’s General Manager Partnerships, Digital And Events, said at the 2018 nudie Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles:
“Surfing Australia is really supportive of the adaptive surfing pathway in Australia and we provide this outlet as a qualifier for Team Australia who then goes on to the world stage.”
The competitive side of surfing in the adaptive world is powering forward too, with the (ISA) World Adaptive Surfing Championships gaining ever-more exposure. From this year’s results, surfers will be selected to represent Team Australia at the World Champs – we’re expecting the 2019 winners list to feature, but the official team won’t be announced until later in the year.
Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart once again sums up the power of the sport and the ocean perfectly:
“We have grown massively as a sport and in the end, it’s all about the ocean and its ability to heal and equalise. It makes you feel at home and I just love it.”
We love it too.
For information on either becoming an Adaptive Surfing competitor, spectator or to offer support of any kind, you can contact the ASA via their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/adaptivesurfersaustralia/
You can also stay up to date with results images from the 2019 event here: https://australiansurfchampionships.com/
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