The event brought the surfing community together, but what is this community we speak of? Community is defined as “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common”, and that is what adaptive surfing is – it’s a discipline of surfing that brings a group of likeminded individuals together to share the 'stoke' and the wonderful joy that surfing brings, no matter the challenges that they may face. So, for Surfing England the focus of this event was to provide the opportunity and grow the impact it holds.
With the country basking in a classic heatwave and the lack of swell forecast, it led to a unique move from Surfing England to consult with surfers in the days leading to the event to discuss the very small surf forecast, and with a resounding ‘absolutely, we will surf and enjoy whatever the conditions’ the competitors and organisers charged on.
Saturday morning saw Surfing England’s first ‘Adaptive Training Workshop’ run in collaboration with Surfability UK, as part of their strategy for a healthy surfing community. The training was an opportunity for volunteers from affiliated surf clubs and surf schools to come and experience, learn and engage with adaptive surfing – creating confidence and local leaders through a mixture of indoor and in water training. Over 30 coaches gained the fresh perspectives and knowledge to make an impact at their local levels.
As the mid-day sun sat above the site, the surfers arrived, as did the swell – as if by magic. The tide turned, and 2ft clean sets filled in to Fistral bay and after the surfer briefing, the competition got in to full swing.
The first heat got underway with Melissa Reid catching the first wave of the event, with good speed, power and flow, made even more impressive by her visual impairment. This seemed to set the competition tone and the afternoon ploughed on through heat rounds, with divisions identified by a surfers’ functional ability to surf in either ‘standing, sitting/kneeling, prone, assisted, open or visually impaired’ categories. In a first for Surfing England, a liveheats scoring system was introduced and the elite panel of judges scored and placed the surfers with some progressing and others not. The camaraderie was exceptional and the vibe unrivalled.
Surfing competitions are for some, but for others such as paraplegic athlete Darren Edwards the sport of surfing was an unknown challenge until this event gave him a taste of its power. With the support of the amazing volunteers Darren took to the ocean for the first time since his accident 18 months ago and rode his first wave to the jubilation of those on the beach. After the surf, he said ‘I can’t describe this feeling. It’s an overwhelming happiness but I want to cry with joy’, to which one of the volunteers replied ‘that’s what STOKE is!’.
So with the high tide rising and the finals commencing, the atmosphere was electric and the surfers delivered, much to the joy of the beach goers and supporters alike. As the sun began to set so came the time for prize giving and rewards. A unique event also calls for some unique prizes and Darren Edwards picked up an unexpected ‘Newest Frother’ title, followed by Laurent Marouf taking the ‘Biggest Frother’ award and fellow Frenchman Benoit Moreau earning ‘Highest scoring wave’ with a 7.2 – Spike Kane collected his Surfing England Global Ambassador Award given at the 2018 AGM and took the moment to thank everyone for growing the sport and rightly noted “it all just starts with you getting up in the morning and going surfing”. All of the division results are continued below.