5 stories to watch from the ISA Para Surfing World Championships at Pismo Beach

Last year the Spain team won a pair of visually impaired gold medals and a historic first-team title. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jiménez


Editor’s Note: This piece is presented to you by our partners at IS A.

From Monday December 6 to Saturday December 11 the sixth World Para Surfing Championships (WPSC) will be held in Pismo Beach, California. Para surfing is one of the fastest growing areas of the surfing world today. The International Surfing Association (ISA) has hosted the WPSC since 2015, and the AmpSurf ISA WPSC 2020 was the most successful and attended edition to date, nearly doubling in size from 69 athletes in 2015 to 131 in 2020. And following the success of the Olympic surfing debut at Tokyo 2020, para surfing aims to participate in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

To get you ready for the action, we’ve thought we’d give you an overview of some of the key aspects of the event as well as some top athlete stories to follow.

Brazilian Alcino Neto is definitely a contender to watch next week. Photo: ISA / Pablo Jiménez.

This year, Pismo is expected to welcome parasurf athletes from at least 26 countries, with El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico for the first time. Team USA and Team Spain are the favorites for the World Team Championship gold at this year’s event, both with full or near full roster. Brazil, Hawaii and Costa Rica are also the best competitive teams, likely to give their money’s worth to the top two. In the 2020 event last year, the Spain team won gold, the United States team won silver, and Brazil won bronze.

Para Surf Ranking

Para surf rankings are important for spectators to understand, both at the event and for those of us following online. This is a big step forward for para surfing, allowing athletes to be judged fairly and to compete on an equal basis with those of similar ability. Athletes compete in nine different categories – seven based on physical impairment and two based on visual impairment.

Para Surfing Stand 1, 2 and 3 take athletes capable of surfing waves in a standing position. Para Surfing Kneel takes surfers who ride the waves kneeling or sitting down without using a paddle. Para Surfing Sit is for surfers who surf from a seated position, use a paddle and are self-sufficient when it comes to paddling the waves and getting back on their board safely. The Para Surf Prone 1 and 2 is aimed at athletes who ride the waves while lying down, the difference being whether or not they need help paddling the waves and getting back on their boards safely. Para Surfing Visually Impaired 1 and 2 is intended for surfers with varying degrees of visual impairment. The complete summary of the specifics of the classification can be found on the ISA website.

Stories to watch

This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are many exciting athletes to watch at the event such as Costa Rica’s Dariel Melendez who wowed the internet with his one-legged surf technique. . People have come together to help Dariel buy a prosthetic leg, and he will compete this year in the Para Surfing Stand 2 division. Here are some other athletes that we are following this year.

Liv Stone (USA) – Para Surf Stand 1

Stone of life was born with a congenital limb difference, having shorter arms with two fingers on each hand, but that never stopped her from leading an active life or competing at a high level, playing college football during her first year. year of high school. Even so, growing up in Pennsylvania didn’t offer many opportunities for surfing until 2017, when Liv attended one of Bethany Hamilton’s concerts. Beautifully faulty Retreats. It was there that she learned to surf, and she hasn’t stopped since.

In 2019, her family moved to Carlsbad, California to be closer to the ocean, and last year Liv won her first gold at the 2020 ISA Parasurf World Championships. This year she could win her second gold medal if she manages to beat the other ladies in the highly competitive field of Para Surfing Stand 1 athletes.

Sam Bloom WPSC

Sam at WPSC 2020. Photo: Sean Evans.

Sam Bloom (Australia) – Para Surf Prone 2

Sam bloom did not grow up in a wheelchair. The Australian mother of three had everything in her life. A surfer, she had traveled the world, fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse and raising three sons with her husband Cameron. Then, in 2013, Sam fell through a rotten hotel balcony railing while on vacation in Thailand, an accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down and looking for meaning. to his life.

Her recovery, narrated in the 2020 Netflix movie Penguin flower, was caused by an injured Australian Magpie chick the family took in and named Penguin. The injured bird helped Sam rediscover meaning in his life, and soon enough Sam was back in the water thanks to competitive paracanoe, winning two Australian titles and placing 13th in the world. She rediscovered surfing, was selected for Australia’s para surf team in 2018 and won gold at the 2019 and 2020 Para Surfing World Championships in the Para Surf Prone 2 division.

matte shape

Matt surfs almost entirely to the touch, but the only thing that might alert you to that fact are the words “Blind Surfer” printed on his wetsuit. Photo: mattformston.com

Matt Formston (Australia) – Visually Impaired Para Surf 2

Matt formston has been a professional athlete for over a decade. He made his debut in para-cycling, winning gold and silver at the 2014 and 2015 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, as well as a world record in the tandem pursuit event in 2014. Matt represented Australia at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but quickly switched from cycling to pursue his great love for surfing at the professional level. With only five percent of his sight, Matt surfs almost entirely by touch, but if you watched him surf the only thing that might alert you to that fact would be the words “Blind Surfer” imprinted on his wetsuit. Man rocks.

He is currently the reigning world champion in the Para Surfing Visually Impaired 2 division after winning gold at the 2017, 2018 and 2020 World Parasurf Championships. Will he be able to defend his title against prospects like Fig Diel from Brazil, who has been on his heels with silver medals the past two years? We will have to wait and see.

Nathalie Vindas

Natalia at the Fourth ISA WPSC. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

Natalia Vindas (Costa Rica) – Para Surf Prone 1

Para surfing is at the center of Natalia Vindas life. “It’s passion, motivation, joy, peace… Every time I go surfing, I feel so small in front of the vastness and the force of the sea… but at the same time so big to face my fears, fall, get up and catch those waves. “

In her day job, Natalia works to develop accessible tourism in her home country, Costa Rica and abroad, and gives trainings, lectures and interviews on creating accessible spaces with her training in civil engineering and the creation of accessible tourism opportunities for people with disabilities. She will certainly be an athlete to watch this year as she competes for her first gold in the Para Surf Prone 1 division.

Eric at last year's ISA WPSC

Eric, at WPSC last year. Photo: ISA / Sean Evans

Eric Dargent (France) – Para Surf Stand 3

Eric Dargent was surfing in the Indian Ocean off Reunion Island when he was attacked by a shark and lost his left leg above the knee.

The attack did nothing to damage Eric’s love for surfing, and he went so far as develop an action sports oriented prosthetic knee with Patrice Barattero, snowboard amputee and the help of an orthopedic surgeon to help him get back into the water. The prosthesis, marketed and produced under the name Easy Ride sports knee by the French company Proteor, is resistant to seawater, low temperatures and incorporates a hydraulic shock absorber used in mountain bikes. This helped Eric win a silver medal in Para Surfing Stand 3 division last year, and you can see Eric sporting his creation as he goes for gold at Pismo Beach this year.

If you can’t make it to Pismo Beach for the event, be sure to log into the World Para Surfing Championships online at ISAsurf.org from Monday December 6.

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