Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart has secured his fifth win at the Australian Para Surfing Titles, while Lennox Head’s Joel Taylor picked up his first.
The event was held at Rainbow Beach (Bonny Hills) last weekend in small waves.
‘Mono’ added his latest Australian title (kneel division) to a trophy cabinet that includes world championship wins.
‘The reason I keep coming back is my love for the sport and promoting it, especially among the youth. I genuinely believe it’s the best sport in the world. It’s fantastic that Surfing Australia organizes these events; they deserve credit for it,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, accidents happen every day, and new people face difficulties each year. Our continuous involvement aims to keep the sport in the public eye. So if something goes wrong, people can remember us, out there in the surf despite challenges.
‘We hold a responsibility to endorse it, encourage more individuals to return to the ocean, and that’s what I’m here to do.’
Joel secured his Australian title (prone division) after three decades of surfing, and just his second attempt at the Para Titles.
‘Winning this title has me seriously pumped.
‘I remember my first Australian Title entry back in 1993 when I was just 12 and passionate about bodyboarding. Now, 30 years later, I’m an Australian champion, and it’s an awesome feeling.
‘To share it with my family and friends watching on from the beach is even better.
‘The waves were small, but I had trained hard and prepared well so I was confident. I knew if the waves came my way I was a good chance. Luckily they did.’
Joel is confined to a wheelchair, paralysed with a spinal cord injury he suffered while surfing as a professional bodyboarder, at Pipeline in Hawaii in 2001, aged 21.
‘I didn’t touch the water for 20 years, but my love of the ocean, surfing and competing never left me,’ he said.
Winning the Australian titles means the surfers are automatically selected for the Australian Team to compete at the ISA World Para Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach, California, this November.
‘This will be my next competition and my first time travelling overseas since my accident in 2001. I hope to raise enough funds to take my family, my wife and two sons, aged one and four, too’.