The finals day of the second annual Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships kicked off this Sunday at La Jolla Shores. The event was a Paralympic-style team competition, featuring teams comprising eight members, each vying for both individual medals and the possibility of becoming the first-ever ISA Adaptive Surfing Team World Champion.
The competitors were welcomed by clean, 2- to 3-foot waves, and after a day filled with historical moments, six individual competitors (plus the Adaptive Surfing World Team Champion) earned gold medals in their respective divisions.
The AS-VI visually impaired final was the opening heat of the morning. After battling Brazilian Elias Figue Diel, Frenchman Gwendal Du Fretay, and Australian Matt Formston, Spain’s Aitor Francesena became the first-ever visually impaired World Champion.
“Anything is possible,” said Francesena in a post-heat interview with the ISA. “We have to work with what we got, so this proves that with drive and passion you can do anything you set your mind to.”
In addition to the AS-VI visually impaired category, competitors were grouped into five separate divisions based on their various physical difficulties: Upright (surfers riding in a seated position on a wakeski), Prone (surfers lying down flat on the board), Assist (surfers needing assistance paddling into waves), and two Standing/Kneeling divisions (depending on their level of functioning).
Brazil’s Felipe Lima (AS-3, Upright), Denmark’s Bruno Hansen (AS-4, Prone) and Australia’s Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart (AS-2, Stand/Kneel) were three of the six gold medalists to repeat their 2015 victories. Brazilian Davi Teixeira (AS-5, Assist) and South African Antony Smyth took home the wins in the Assist and Stand/Kneel categories respectively, both nabbing their first gold medals.
One of the most exciting parts of the day came when 11-year old Davi Teixeira proudly pocketed the Gold Medal in the Assist division after a tight heat against Jesse Billauer, Barney Miller, and Pancho Arbulu. "To be crowned world champion has been a dream of mine my whole life and that dream has finally come true,” Teixeira told the ISA. “I knew that this day would arrive, and it finally happened!"
Twenty-two countries competed in this year’s event (four more than last year’s inaugural event), showing the growth and increased support for adaptive surfing events. For the first time ever, Team Brazil became the overall Adaptive Surfing World Team Champion, with USA earning the Silver Medal, and Chile and Australia receiving the Bronze and Copper Medals.
“This was an incredible finish to a monumental week of competition for the sport of Adaptive Surfing,” ISA President Fernando Aguerre said in an interview. “Throughout these four days we witnessed the sport grow and develop leaps and bounds. The six World Champions, the 77 athletes, the 22 countries and Team Brazil’s Gold Medal performance will forever be a part of the history of Adaptive Surfing.”
For more information on the event, including details results and photos, click here.