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Mark Mono Stewart is the Kelly Slater of adaptive surfing. Despite being dad-age to many of his peers, he keeps bagging event wins and championship titles. In September 2015, at the age of 53, he won the inaugural ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in California. He went on to repeat the following year – almost 40 years after losing his leg to cancer.
Mono is part of a growing feel-good world tour of roughly nine events supported by a handful of NGOs around the world. He estimates that 50-120 athletes tour consistently, all on their own dime. His native Australia will host the nation’s first adaptive event and open it to international surfers.
As this tour grows, providing more divisions, more events and bigger cash prizes, wave pools will enter the picture, providing guaranteed surf and athlete access for a few events.
Mono tells us that the whole mojo behind the adaptive surf tour goes beyond the gloss of a corporate blanket. Instead, the system is supported by smaller groups like Ampsurf, Stance and the ISA. The tour’s main aim is to get people with similar adaptive challenges back into the water or into surfing for the first time. And this is where wave pools come in. Pools help at the surf-entry level. People feel safe in a controlled environment.
As Mono puts it, “The hardest thing after losing a limb is that fear. The ocean is such a big playing field. It’s easier to get someone surfing in a wave pool and then get them into the ocean. The ocean is such a healing place. And wave pools are a great introduction or re-introduction.”