The Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship was launched in 2015 to build a platform for physically challenged surfers to display their talents in competition. Under the ISA’s leadership, the sport has seen an explosion of growth and spurred its expansion worldwide.
The event’s participation numbers have boomed since the inaugural event with athlete participation increasing nearly 60 percent, and country participation increasing more than 40 percent.
Two challenged athletes competing in this year’s ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship, Alana Nichols, the first woman world champion in the AS-3 Division, and native San Diegan Quinn Waitley, talked about what it means to them.
“The stoke level, hands down,” answered Nichols about why she competes, adding, “You’d be hard pressed to find a more hyped-up-to-be-surfing group of individuals on the planet. Everyone that convenes in La Jolla has had to overcome great odds just to get from the land to the water. And then to figure out how to surf with a disability – you better believe there’s passion involved.”
Waitley concurred ISA is something special.
“I love competing against the best surfers in the world and helping this sport grow and include more athletes, fans and sponsors,” he said. “The competition at the ISA is the best, bringing athletes from around the world. I have so many friends in adaptive surfing, and the ISA brings us together in a special venue.”
Concerning training, Waitley said, “Since I must have help getting in the water and on every wave, I can’t train as often as I would like. But I train with my dad and other friends whenever we can. I surf and go to the gym, and other activities to prepare myself for competition. I want to surf my best and hope to win a gold medal.”
In 2017, the Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship made history, as a record-breaking 109 athletes convened in La Jolla to represent their 26 respective nations and compete for gold in the Paralympic-style, team-based event. The event was the first to take place after the ISA received official recognition from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and was a key milestone in the ISA’s ambitions to see Para-Surfing included in future editions of the Paralympic Games.
“The ISA is proud to host this World Championship for the fourth consecutive year and continue to make surfing more accessible to those with physical challenges around the world,” said La Jolla and ISA president Fernando Aguerre. “Our commitment to para-surfing is representative of our inclusive nature as a federation, and our push to spread the joy of the sport worldwide. Surfing has a therapeutic power to heal that we believe can be used to change people’s lives.”
Aguerre thanked Stance for extending their support in growing the adaptive surfing movement. “Stance has been, and will continue to be, an integral part and key partner of our aim to grow and develop Adaptive Surfing within all of our 103 member nations,” he said.
Opening ceremonies this year were held Dec. 12 in Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores. The competition continues through Sunday, Dec. 16, with closing ceremonies held following the last heat.
Since 2017, women-only divisions have been added into the event mix reflecting increased popularity and participation of the sport among females. As a result, in 2017 the ISA crowned five women’s world champions – the first ever in the sport – in a strong display of the talent that has grown in women’s para-surfing.
The International Surfing Association (ISA), founded in 1964, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. The ISA governs and defines Surfing as Shortboard, Longboard & Bodyboarding, 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.