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It was a day full of sunshine, smiles and extraordinary surfing as the English Adaptive Surfing Open returned to Bristol.
This is one of our favourite events on the surfing calendar, with an atmosphere and camaraderie like no other! In the water the rivalry is fierce, but around the concrete shores of The Wave the adaptive surf community is friendly and welcoming, proving that surfing is truly a sport open to everyone.
This was a record-breaking day for both Surfing England, which runs the competition, and the adaptive surf community, with nine ISA Para Surf classes in action for the first time at this incredible event.
dryrobe® Ambassador and adaptive surfing legend Pegleg Bennett, fresh from taking first place at the 2022 Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championships last month,
sums up the vibe perfectly:
“The atmosphere is fantastic. It’s the biggest turnout we’ve had for a surfing England adaptive comp. The sun’s out, everybody’s in a really good mood and stoked to be competing. We’re an extended family, that’s what it is with the Adaptives. The Hawaiians call it ‘Ohana’. Yeah, we’re competitive, but we’re good friends getting in the water together.”
For the third year in a row, The Wave hosted the competition, again proving to be the ideal location. As well as guaranteed perfect waves, the venue is designed to be completely accessible. The passion everyone at The Wave has for adaptive surfing really shines through at this event.
Through dryrobe’s partnership with The Wave, we’re proud to support their Waves of Growth programme, funding adaptive surf equipment including, boards and vests that can be used at the venue. These are used by The Wave’s own Adaptive Surf Club and were in use by competitors at the event.
With international travel now back to near normality, there was an international presence back at the event with surfers making their way from countries including Canada, Argentina, France and Israel. This year also saw the return home of the force behind adaptive surfing in England, Spike Kane - the first British surfer to represent the UK at the adaptive world surfing championship.
Every division saw fierce competition, none more keenly than the Prone Assist category, which saw a record 10 entries this year. There was some stand-out surfing from Andy Guy, his first-time surfing at The Wave since last year’s contest, but it was Mark Hagger who took the title, with Hannah Dines coming 2nd - the highest scoring woman in this class.
The Visually Impaired 2 division saw world champion Melissa Reid taking the top spot with some incredible surfing. In the Visually Impaired 1 division, two surfers went head-to-head, with France’s Thomas Da Silva bringing home the win.
In the kneeling division, the competition between Martin Pollock and Llywelyn ‘Sponge’ Williams really got the crowd going! Sponge claimed victory in the end, but Martin was stoked to see his scores close the gap between the two. Canadian Victoria Feige took third place and was the highest placed woman in this class.
In the Stand 1 division, three surfers charged hard, two of whom entered after surfing in the Waikiki Participation session that took place last year, a sign of the growing appetite for adaptive surfing in England. First place was eventually taken by Benoit Moreau from France, back in the event after a couple covid years' break. His surfing was mesmerising to watch!
The Stand 2 division, saw another close contest with Pegleg Bennett and Nachman Yariv Balulu pushing each other in a friendly rivalry that started last year. Nachman’s flair surfing just pipped Peg to the title. Zoe Smith, who incredibly only started surfing last year, placed 3rd and was the highest woman.
Finally, Prone 1 was an international head-to-head class, as Argentinian Nicolas Gallegos and American Parker Olenick battled each other in a closely fought contest, with Parker just grabbing the win.
A competitor who deserves a special mention is 10-year-old, Jade Edward, the youngest surfer in the contest! Travelling all the way from Scotland, Jade won the hearts of the crowd nipping around The Wave on her skateboard and, more importantly, absolutely shredding on the advanced waves!
Para Surf Prone 1
1. Parker Olenick
2. Nicolas Gallegos
Para Surf Prone 2
1. Mark Hagger
2. Hannah Dines
3. Karen Darke
4. Spike Kane
Para Surf Stand 1
1. Ben Moreau
2. Giles Long
3. Joe Dillnutt
Para Surf Stand 2
1. Nachman Yariv Balulu
2. Pegleg Bennett
3. Zoe Smith
4. Louis Sutton
Para Surf Stand 3
1. Alon Avisar
Para Surf Sit
1. Spike Kane
Para Surfing Kneel
1. Llywelyn Sponge Williams
2. Martin Pollock
3. Victoria Feige
4. Isaac Heather
Para Surfing Vision Impairment 1
1. Thomas DaSilva
2. Ashley Greenaway
Para Surfing Vision Impairment 2
1. Melissa Reid
2. Alexander Shub
3. David Lewis
4. Michelle Ann Macfarlane
Thank you to all the amazing volunteers, who supported the competitors both in and out of the water and as well as The Wave for hosting another phenomenal edition of this phenomenal competition. Bring on 2023!