Byron Bay’s Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart has made history by winning the first ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in La Jolla, California yesterday morning (Monday September 28).
In a tightly contested final in small bumpy surf, Stewart made the most of the conditions posting a heat total of 11.13 to take down South African Antony Smyth (10.66), Brazilian Alcino Silva Neto (8.43) and Hawaiian legend Mike Coots (6.03).
The lifelong Byron resident said he had been waiting a long time for the opportunity to compete against other adaptive athletes and to take gold was something he only ever dreamed about.
‘I am just completely overwhelmed and it is a dream come true, I still can’t really believe it has happened.’
Stewart went on to speak about the inspiration he had drawn from the event and his fellow competitors.
‘I have met so many awesome people this week who have blown me away with their stories, it is just really touching to see so many dedicated people who love the ocean as much as I do, and it has been an amazing week.’
Stewart and fellow Australian adaptive team mates Jake Matthews and Jade ‘Red’ Wheatley travelled to the USA where they took on other athletes from Chile, Coast Rica, Norway, France, Mexico and 13 other nations.
Matthews surfed well and made it through to round 2 before being eliminated while Wheatley powered through to be narrowly defeated in the quarterfinals in what capped off a great team effort.
The three athletes attended the ISA Adaptive Surfing Symposium in San Diego on Saturday September 26 and intend on using their knowledge to get more adaptive surfers in the water in Australia.
By teaming up with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), one of the recognized leaders in the physically challenged sports community, the ISA wants to unify worldwide efforts for the advancement of adaptive surfing.
This World Championship has served as the preeminent platform for physically challenged surfers to display their talents in competition.