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Adaptive Surfing Community Gathers to Build on the Platform of the Inaugural ISA World Championship

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El Presidente de la ISA, Fernando Aguerre, empieza el Simposio de Surf Adaptado de la ISA. Foto: ISA/Reynolds
ISA President, Fernando Aguerre, opens the ISA Adaptive Surfing Symposium. Photo: ISA/Reynolds

On Saturday, September 26th, the global Adaptive Surfing community gathered at the Deni + Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Center in San Diego for the ISA Adaptive Surfing Symposium. The objective was to raise awareness, share best practices, and initiate a conversation about how Surfing can play an ongoing and vital role in enriching the lives of physically challenged athletes.

El Deni + Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Center en San Diego recibió el Simposio de Surf Adaptado de la ISA. Foto: ISA/Reynolds
The Deni + Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Center in San Diego hosted the ISA Adaptive Surfing Symposium. Photo: ISA/Reynolds

The Symposium goal is to build on the platform created by the inaugural ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship Presented by Challenged Athletes Foundation, Hurley, Stance and the City of San Diego.

The Symposium opened with words from ISA President Fernando Aguerre.

“We included the Adaptive Surfing Symposium as a part of this ISA World Championship to build upon this historic moment. In order to make progress in the discipline of Adaptive Surfing, we need to learn, share ideas and create a development pathway for the sport.”

Aguerre demuestra un tabla firmada por todos los competidores en el ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship quienes asistieron el Simposio. Foto: ISA/Reynolds
Aguerre displays a board signed by all of the competitors in the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship who attended the Symposium. Photo: ISA/Reynolds

Following Aguerre’s introduction, a panel of adaptive surfers featuring Alana Nichols (USA), Mike Coots (HAW), Dries Millard (RSA), Alcino “Pirata” Neto (BRA) and Ismael Araya (CRI), highlighted the diverse range of physical challenges and backgrounds of the competing athletes.

Costa Rica’s Ismael Araya expressed, “When I return to Costa Rica, I want to bring hope back with me. There are no limits. I want to motivate adaptive surfers in Costa Rica and push them hard to make them believe that anything is possible.”

De izquierda a derecha, Alana Nichols (EE.UU.), Dries Millard (RSA), Mike Coots (HAW), Ismael Araya (CRI) y Alcino “Pirata” Neto (BRA), conversan sobre sus experiencias como surfistas adaptados. Foto: ISA/Reynolds
From left to right, Alana Nichols (USA), Dries Millard (RSA), Mike Coots (HAW), Ismael Araya (CRI) and Alcino “Pirata” Neto (BRA), discuss their experiences as adaptive surfers, moderated by CAF Board Vice-President and founding member, Bob Babbitt. Photo: ISA/Reynolds

After the panel of athletes, Adaptive Surfing organizations took to the stage including Jesse Billauer from Life Rolls On Foundation, Cara Troy from AccesSurf, Betty Michalewicz-Kragh from the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) and Luana Nobre from Brazil’s Adapt Surf. Michalewicz-Kragh explained how NMCSD has begun to prescribe Surfing lessons to patients to treat pain and mental illnesses. A medical case study was conducted which proved that less pain medication was needed for patients during periods where they consistently surfed.

The Symposium was rounded out by an introduction to the benefits of Adaptive Surfing, an equipment panel discussion about the advances in board shaping technology, a presentation on Paralympic classification, a talk by the French Adaptive Surfing Program and a Development Pathway Panel Discussion.

During the equipment panel discussion, Australia’s Mark “Mono” Stewart attested to the healing power of Surfing.

“I lost my leg in 1976 due to Osteosarcoma. I was told I had two years to live, but what kept me alive was surfing. This ISA World Championship has inspired me a ton to go back home and get things fired up in Australia.”

Sylvana Mestre, from the International Paralympic Committee and CEO of Play & Train, spoke about Adaptive Surfing and Paralympic classifications.

“An International Federation needs to do research, provide evidence, define technical requirements, create rules and enable equitable access to be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games. I believe in Surfing and I would love to see Surfing included in the Paralympic Games.”

Sunday will conclude the 2015 ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship with the Finals of competition.

The live webcast will start at 6:45am at La Jolla Shores, culminating with the event’s Medal and Closing Ceremony.

Sunday, 6:45am San Diego, USA
Sunday, 10:45am Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sunday, 1:45pm Paris, France
Sunday, 11:45pm Sydney Australia

To see Friday’s full results, visit:

To follow all the action, visit –

The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing, StandUp Paddle (SUP) Racing and Surfing, Bodysurfing, Wakesurfing, and all other wave riding activities on any type of waves, and on flat water using wave riding equipment. The ISA crowned its first Men’s and Women’s World Champions in 1964. It crowned the first Big Wave World Champion in 1965; World Junior Champion in 1980; World Kneeboard Champions in 1982; World Longboard Surfing and World Bodyboard Champions in 1988; World Tandem Surfing Champions in 2006; World Masters Champions in 2007; and World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboard Champions in 2012.

ISA membership includes the surfing National Governing Bodies of 97 countries on five continents. Its headquarters are located in La Jolla, California. It is presided over by Fernando Aguerre (Argentina), first elected President in 1994 in Rio de Janeiro. The ISA’s four Vice-Presidents are Karín Sierralta (PER), Layne Beachley (AUS), Casper Steinfath (DEN) and Barbara Kendall (NZL).