What is adaptive surfing?
Adaptive surfing is based on the ideas that water heals, surfing is fun and that everyone — regardless of physical challenges — should be able to enjoy it. Makes sense, right? But surfing is not an easy sport, it’s a considerable physical challenge in itself and if you’re missing a limb or are partially paralysed, that makes it even more so.
And then there’s Bethany Hamilton, who despite losing an arm in a shark attack, has gone on to enjoy a stellar pro surfing career including a recent 1st place at the Surf n Sea Pipeline Women’s Pro. Hamilton’s story was chronicled in a 2004 autobiography, Soul Surfer, which was made into a film in 2011 starring Hollywood bigwigs such as Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid. The lead role is played by AnnaSophia Robb, who is just slightly shorter than the real Bethany Hamilton. Sounds like an amazing story — whether the film measures up is an entirely different one. Check out the trailer:
Another successful amputee surfer is Brazil’s Pirata, who is missing his left leg from the mid thigh down. Pirata has developed his own style of surfing, which you can see here. It’s a true example of adaptive surfing.
From the ISA (International Surfing Association) article on adaptive surfing (or “adapted surfing”):
In 1996, Pirata introduced Adapted Surfing to Brazil by setting up a surf school at the beach Pitangueiras, Guaruja. Here his work includes working with impoverished children and people with disabilities. Adapted Surfing is now being introduced by Pirata worldwide.
Recently an adaptive surfing event was held in Peniche, Portugal. Organised by theAssociação Portuguesa de Surf Adaptado (SURFaddict), PPSC – Peniche Surfing Clube, Câmara Municipal de Peniche and Special Surf 78, it was the third adaptive surfing event this summer in the country. Read more about the event here.
Perhaps everyone’s favourite adaptive surfing story involves a very special surfer named Ricochet. Ricochet was initially trained as a service dog for people with special needs, but she much preferred running on the beach to helping around the house — and who can blame her?
Patrick, a surfer who became quadriplegic after being run over by a car as a child, has this to say about Ricochet and the non-profit organisation she works for:
Ricochet has changed the course of my life. She stepped in and made recovery possible for me at the exact moment when the money was running out. Never [in] a million years could I have expected the impact Ricki and Judy were going to have on my life. I love them both so much! Ricki is an awesome surf partner and I have so much fun riding the waves with her. I feel so blessed to have them in my life. I don’t know if I could ever express in words how grateful I am. Thank you!
Find out more about both Patrick and Ricochet by watching this video.
Lead image of Nick Vujicic & Bethany Hamilton Quotes by NoahHamiltonPhoto.com