THE inclusion of surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has had a dramatic impact on the sport.
The Olympics are now a major factor in all plans, whether by administrators planning events or surfers themselves.
Adaptive surfing is also part of the story, with the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. Serendipitously, the inaugural ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships took place last year, which paves the way for rapid regional development in adaptive surfing.
Cape Town’s Antony Smyth top- scored for the national team last year with a silver in the stand-up division.
Suitably inspired and with Olympics status a bonus, he and a team of adaptive athletes, administrators, consultants and friends have been hard at work setting up Adaptive Surfing South Africa.
Their work has culminated in the first-ever national championship for adaptive surfers, to be held in Muizenberg on October 16.
Smyth told me that he was hoping up to 30 surfers will enter from around the country, from which eight members of the national team needs to be selected for the world champs in San Diego, California in early December.
And from there, the Paralympics build-up begins. He urged prospective athletes to come forward. “We need you!” Smyth says.
The event will comprise six categories, including two stand- up ( or kneeling) divisions, one prone, one assisted, one upright (seated in a paddle craft), and a blind category.
The stories behind how they became adaptive surfers makes for scary reading, but they have long moved on.
Take prone team member last year, Dries Millard, 25, who is well- known for his countrywide surf clinics.
When he was 18, he played rugby for Boland and had just earned a rugby scholarship to university when his car veered off a cliff. Lying in ICU, paralysed from the waist down, he heard the news that he had been selected for the Junior Springboks.
In May 2009, photographer Jean- Pierre Veaudry ( SA standup team member) was returning from a shoot on his motorbike when a hit-and-run left him with an amputated lower right leg.
And aged five, Smyth (stand-up) suffered a Brachial Plexus injury to his right arm in a car accident. He can’t move his fingers, hand and wrist or rotate his elbow.
Bruno Hansen, prone gold medallist for Denmark last year, was shot during a botched carjacking on his way to Cape Town International airport while returning to his job as captain of an Indonesian surf charter boat.
His South African passport has lapsed, according to Smyth, but Bruno hopes to make the national team next year after reapplying.
Not only will the adaptive SA championships be a platform for future honours, but should do much to popularise the event, providing a glimpse of how inspirational these athletes are.
As an example, Smyth shared an anecdote after the world champs last year. He asked five surfers in San Diego whether they would return to life before their disability.
Without hesitation, paraplegics and limbless folk alike, the answer was a resounding “no”.
They had become better people. The epiphanic resonance of these life lessons transcended even the concept of being “able”.
Besides, what is able? What is disabled? These athletes don’t know the difference.
● See https:// www. facebook. com/ adaptivesurfingsouthafrica
THE women’s world title has been delayed after Courtney Conlogue won the Cascais Women’s Pro, beating No 1 Tyler Wright in the final.
Wright would have won the world title had she won, but now must wait for France before she can claim it. Conlogue is hot on her heels though.
South Africans Mickey February and Beyrick de Vries were knocked out of the QS men’s event that has been running concurrently with the women.
Billabong Junior Series
GREAT surf greeted the youngsters competing in the Billabong Junior Series finale yesterday at Seal Point. Some of the surfers are fresh from their stint with South Africa at the ISA VISSLA World Junior Surf- ing Championships.
See www. facebook. com/ BillabongSA for information. The event concludes tomorrow.
THE surf looks 3-4’ today, and with south in the direction, a lot still pushing into False Bay. Muizenberg should be 3’ and moderate SW winds could mean fairly decent surf.
The other side looks sideshore and intermittent. Tomorrow looks sunny and crisp, with clean seas and a fresh SE, with pure offshores that go largely to waste.
A soft 10-second swell runs, with 2-4’ peaks possible on the beachbreaks: at best. Muizenberg onshore and 2’.
TWISTER: Courtney Conlogue of the US won Heat 3 of the quarter-finals at Cascais Women’s Pro 16.