When I first started out on this epic adventure, I dreamt of a place where we were able to break down boundaries of what is possible, start to close the rift of marginalised society, and begin to treat people and the planet with respect.
Knowing my interest, a friend and colleague, Nick Rees, told me I should go to the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Games in California. I went with him and it blew me away and I realised that by supporting this crew of incredible athletes through The Wave, we could change hearts and minds. I’ve met amazing people along the way and some of them are my heroes, mentors and dearest friends. That event kicked-off our support for the Team England Adaptive athletes, which with the help of our investors, continues to this day.
From the very beginning, I knew that The Wave had to be truly accessible for all. We designed the place with adaptive surfing at the very core of what we want to deliver and made sure that people of all abilities would be able to share the many physical and mental health benefits of surfing. To have opened and then to have hosted the 2020 English Adaptive Surfing Championships in our first year is literally a dream come true for me.
Saturday 3rd October was an historic moment in English surfing history. We had a turnout of 21 of the world’s best adaptive surfers for this iconic event, which showcased fierce competition, friendly rivalry, and show-stopping surfing! Despite relentless wind and rain, that would have forced the event to be cancelled at a beach, it was one of the best days we have experienced since we opened. The waves rolled and the athletes brought their best to the competition, all day long.
Heats started at 9am, with surfers showcasing their skills on the lefts all morning and then riding the rights in the afternoon. The pressure was on, surfers had 6 waves per division, with their highest wave score on the left and right accumulating to give their final position on the leaderboard. The format was set to maximise the surf time for competitors.
Every surfer pushed themselves to their limits, but the event is not only a place for competition, it is also a place where dreams are realised and life-changing moments take place. One surfer who has a visual impairment described how the event had given him “hope and optimism for the future”. This is incredible.
A young surfer called Jeremia, aged 7, who has not yet joined the contest environment, came to watch the action. His Mum got in touch afterwards to say how excited he was to meet Martin Pollock, known as 1limbsurfer. In her words, “In a week where some kids at school have told him he was ‘scary’ because he was born with missing limbs.. he met his hero.. he saw him surf (Jeremia also loves to surf) and he vowed to be just like Martin when he grows up. It was one of the highlights of my life”.
This is the strength of adaptive surfing. Every person should have an opportunity to surf and a place in the line-up.
This incredible event was the culmination of our combined efforts with Surfing England and the success will be the springboard for future events, further funding and a drive towards the Paralympic future. It’s a challenge, but we’re up for it.