woman in surf with buildings in the background

Wave of support as local athletes adapt to conditions and push boundaries during professional competitions in Hawaii

The Australian adaptive surf team has taken the pool by storm at the inaugural Adaptive Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event in Hawaii.

Adaptive surfing allows participants with additional challenges, such as those with a physical or visual impairment, to use specialized equipment or a customized surfing experience that suits their abilities.

There were nine classifications in the event, which was held in Waikiki from June 7-11.

Mark Stewart, Jocelyn Neumeuller, Sam Bloom and Matt Formston each took first place in their respective divisions in tight conditions at Queen’s Beach.

Northern Beaches surfer Sam Bloom took out the sensitive non-assist division.

Bloom said the win was especially sweet because it was the first time she’d ever been in the water without her husband Cam pushing her onto the waves.

Bloom said she was surprised when the race organizers found she had the upper body strength to compete without him.

“I was super nervous, but then I thought, ‘Okay, what have you wanted to do since your accident,’ which is to be able to surf on my own,” Bloom said.

Veteran adaptive surfer Mark “Mono” Stewart catches a wave.Delivered: Mark Stewart

Hawaiian ‘mana’ holds up

Mark “Mono” Stewart of Byron Bay, a veteran of competitive adaptive surfing, knocked out the Men’s Any Kneeling Kneel division.

After a perfect score tube ride in one of his heats, Stewart snuck in the overall win by a 0.04 margin.

In the midst of treatment for a melanoma tumor in his lung, Stewart said he thought he would travel to Hawaii to say goodbye to his friends.

A month before the competition, however, a scan revealed that the tumor had halved in size.

“So I went there with the full intention of saying, I’ll see you all again.”

Stewart said the positive vibe of the game and the Hawaiian “mana” helped him move from a wheelchair to the water at the start of the game, to step into the water.

First professional tour

Twenty-six-year-old Adelaide surfer Jocelyn Neumueller won the women’s prone assist division just two years after first entering the sport.

Nuemueller said she was excited to be involved in the inaugural professional event for adaptive surfers.

“It’s so great to be recognized as professional athletes, with a world championship tour to participate in, which also offers prize money,” she said.

A woman surfing with blue sky in the background
Jocelyn Neumueller says it’s great to be recognized as a professional athlete.Delivered

Lennox Head surfer Matt Formston won the Men’s Partial Vision division, in conditions he described as ‘challenging’ due to a lack of swell.

Formston was assisted by his spotter, coach and best mate Michael “Crispy” Crisp.

Crisp said the Australian performance in Hawaii was extraordinary.

“It’s just amazing to see surfers who are often in wheelchairs just have such inspiration and feel and feel with waves.”

A fifth Australian to compete in Hawaii was South Australia’s Chloe Murnane, who placed third in the prone division.

A man in a black rash shirt and board shots on a surfboard on a wave
Matt Formston surfs Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay.Provided: Matt Formston

The team will be ranked first as participants prepare for the next event to be held in California in September.

Australia will also host an event when the tour heads to the Surf Lakes wave pool in Yeppoon next August.

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