Some of the world’s best adaptive surf athletes – including former world champions Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart (AUS) and Bruno Hansen (DEN) – are amongst the competitors who have travelled to North Wales to take part in a world-first inland surf competition this week.
Twenty-four surfers – male and female – representing thirteen nationalities will take part in the event. The current adaptive surfing circuit sees competitions in Hawaii, Bali, South Africa, USA and Europe. It serves as a qualifier for the ISA World Adaptive Surf Championships which have been held in La Jolla, California, since 2015. This is the first time Wales has hosted a stop on the circuit.
Each of the surfers taking part has overcome significant personal challenges – including limb amputations, cancer, life-changing accidents and paralysis – to excel at their sport at a globally competitive level.
The competitors include Welsh surfers Ethan Jolosa from Monmouthshire, and Llywelyn Williams from Abersoch.
Llywelyn, who lost his leg after a skateboarding accident, is a member of the organising committee who brought the event to North Wales. He said: “Surfing is in the blood of so many people living in Wales. I grew up surfing at local beaches like Porth Ceiriad and Porth Neigwl.
“I always wanted to see a Wales stop on the adaptive surf circuit, but the uncertainty of waves and unreliable weather was always a limiting factor. On top of that, access to beaches can be difficult for adaptive surfers.
“That changed when Adventure Parc Snowdonia launched its world-first inland waves. It ticks all the boxes for us: guaranteed surf, fantastic food and accommodation, and world-class facilities in the most beautiful location. The international surfers coming here will get a real taste for Wales whilst seeing the great facilities that are on offer.
“Competing on consistent and reliable inland waves will make for a better competition, and the fact that spectators can get so close up to the waves makes it a much more interesting event.”
The surfers will compete in three categories: standing, kneeling and prone.
Standing surfers are typically able to stand on their board and steer, kneeling surfers will surf on their knees or one knee, and prone surfers lie on their board.
Australian Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart is amongst the competitors. In September 2015, at the age of 53, he won the inaugural International Surfing Association World Adaptive Surfing Championship in La Jolla, California. He said: “The wave here is amazing, well worth the two-day journey from Australia. The accessibility, quality and consistency of the waves is a game-changer. Inland waves are without doubt the future of our sport.”
Andy Ainscough, managing director of Adventure Parc Snowdonia said: “A few of the competitors arrived early to enjoy a bit of North Wales sunshine and to get some practice before the big event.
“Watching them surf is technically impressive and genuinely inspiring. We hope we’ll get a good crowd down on Friday and Saturday to watch some world-class surfing and soak up what will be a great atmosphere.”
The popularity of adaptive surfing has grown significantly since the first ISA World Adaptive Surf Championship in 2015. The International Paralympic Committee, the body which oversees the Paralympics, will make a decision on whether to include it in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games later this year.
This year’s international adaptive surf competitive circuit will culminate in the ISA World Adaptive Surf Championship at La Jolla, California, in Autumn / Winter 2019.