Australia’s adaptive surfing team has scooped the pool at the inaugural Adaptive Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event in Hawaii.
Four Australian surfers travelled the Hawaii to compete in the inaugural Adaptive Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event
All four surfers won gold in their respective divisions
The tour has gone professional for the first time, offering a prize pool to competitors
Adaptive surfing allows competitors with additional challenges, such as those with a physical or visual impairments, to use specialised equipment or an adapted surfing experience to match their abilities.
There were nine classifications in the event, which was held from June 7-11 in Waikiki.
Mark Stewart, Jocelyn Neumeuller, Sam Bloom and Matt Formston each took out first place in their respective divisions in small conditions at Queen’s Beach.
Northern Beaches surfer Sam Bloom took out the prone non-assist division.
Bloom said the win was particularly sweet because it was the first time she had ever been out in the water without her husband Cam pushing her onto waves.
Bloom said she was surprised when the competition organisers deemed she had the upper body strength to compete without him.
“I was super nervous, but then in my mind I was like, ‘OK, what have you wanted to do ever since your accident’, and that is to be able to go surfing on my own,” Bloom said.
Hawaiian ‘mana’ takes hold
Mark “Mono” Stewart from Byron Bay, a veteran of competitive adaptive surfing, took out the men’s Any Kneeling Kneel division.
Coming off a perfect-score tube ride in one of his heats, Stewart snuck in the overall win by a margin of 0.04.
In the midst of treatment for a melanoma tumour in his lung, Stewart said he thought he was travelling to Hawaii to farewell his friends.
However, a month before the competition, a scan revealed the tumour had halved in size.
“So I went over there with the full intent of saying, I will see you all again.”
Stewart said the positive atmosphere of the competition and the Hawaiian “mana” helped him go from from being wheelchaired down to the water at the beginning of the competition, to striding into the water.
First professional tour
Twenty-six-year-old Adelaide surfer Jocelyn Neumueller won the prone assist women’s division, only two years after first getting into the sport.
Nuemueller said she was stoked to be involved in the inaugural professional event for adaptive surfers.
“It is so great to be recognised as professional athletes, with a world championship tour to compete in, that also offers prize money,” she said.
Lennox Head surfer Matt Formston won the men’s Partial Vision division, in conditions he described as ‘challenging’ because of a lack of swell.
Formston was assisted by his spotter, coach and best mate Michael “Crispy” Crisp.
Crisp said the Australian performance in Hawaii was extraordinary.
“It’s just amazing to see surfers that are often in wheelchairs, just have such inspiration and touch and feel with waves.”
A fifth Australian competing in Hawaii was South Australia’s Chloe Murnane, who came third in the prone assist division.
The team will be ranked in first place as the competitors wax up for the next event to be held in California in September.
Australia is also set to host an event when the tour heads to Surf Lakes wave pool in Yeppoon in August next year.