USA Surfing’s Team Toyota Para Surf team wins the team Gold Medal at the 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championship — the strongest showing for Team USA in the event’s history. 📸 ISA Surfing/Sean Evans

USA Surfing Para Surfers Win Team Gold in 2021 ISA World ParaSurfing Championship

A record nine medals is Team USA’s strongest showing in the event’s history

USA Surfing’s Team Toyota Para Surf team won the team Gold Medal in the 2021 International Surfing Association’s World Para Surfing Championship event presented by AmpSurf in Pismo Beach, Calif. It was USA Surfing’s strongest showing in the event’s six-year history, with nine American surfers making the podium.

The team was led by three Gold Medal performances from triple amputee Jose Martinez from Apple Valley, Calif. in the Prone 2 division, Liv Stone of Oceanside in Stand 1, and Sarah Bettencourt from San Diego in Prone 1. Liv and Sarah are two-time world champs, wining individual Gold Medals in 2020 and 2021.

San Diego’s Ethan Kairer and Jesse Billauer of Pacific Palisades, Calif. won Silver Medals — Ethan in the Open Sit division and Jesse in Prone 2.

Indiana’s Darian Bailey Haynes, who has surfed in every ISA World Para Surf Championship, and her teammate Barbie Pacheco of Valley Mills, Texas won Bronze Medals in Stand 1 and Visually Impaired 1 respectively.

Alana Nichols of Reno, Nev. and Katherine Beattie, Los Angeles, won Copper Medals — Alana the only woman in Open Sit and Katherine in Prone 1.

“I’m always proud to be a veteran, but this is on the ultimate level,” said Prone 2 Gold Medalist Jose Martinez. “To represent my country for a new sport that’s coming out, that I see as absolutely epic and is going to be so meaningful for the rest of the world, not just for us. I am grateful and I am honored.”

“I’m blown away by the level of skill by all female para surfers this year, we’ve all stepped it up to bring intense, suspenseful, crowd-roaring surf competition to the world,” said Prone 1 Gold Medalist Sarah Bettencourt.

Stand 1 Gold Medalist Liv Stone moved from Pennsylvania to California to pursue her dream of surfing. “It still doesn’t seem real. Team USA did incredible this year and each and every one of us put in so much hard work for the team Gold Medal. Absolutely honored to be a part of this incredible team,” Liv said. “This was a year to remember!”

USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse said he would love to see this team on the Paralympic stage in 2028. “I’m super proud of these athletes who’ve been training hard all year and came out on top for the team and won nine individual medals,” said Cruse. “Thanks to the ISA for putting on a fantastic event and continuing to push for para surfing to be in the Paralympic Games in 2028. They belong on that SoCal world stage!”

USA Surfing’s powerhouse team competed against 150 of the world’s best para surf athletes from 26 national teams in nine para surfing sport classes. The double elimination format competition featured five days of non-stop action in beautiful Pismo Beach Pier conditions that strengthened each day.

The team was a mix of new and seasoned competitors, who bonded instantly. Team co-captain Christiaan “Otter” Bailey said, “From the second we hit the water, Team USA Surfing went FULL SEND into this comp with a comprehensive strategy to take back our World Champion Title!”

The 2018 USA Surfing ISA World Para Surfing Championship team Gold Medalists.

Get to know the Toyota USA Surfing 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championship team below.

USA Surfing’s Para surfing athletes have their sights set on competing in the LA 2028 Paralympic Games.

Much work has been done to make surfing a Paralympic sport, but some of the most challenging work remains to make the dream a reality. International Surfing Association (ISA) President Fernando Aguerre, USA Surfing team coach Sean Brody, team captain Christiaan “Otter” Bailey, CEO Greg Cruse and other leaders continue their push for surfing to take its place on the 2028 LA Paralympic Games stage.

One of the main principles of the Paralympic movement is to grow a more inclusive world through sport, spotlighting athletes with physical challenges excelling and achieving their dreams of being the best in sport.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has recognized the ISA as the official International Federation for the sport of Para-surfing. The ISA has managed the technical aspects of Para Surfing with the development of a Para Surfing Classification System and Rulebook and receives guidance from an advisory committee comprised of athletes and experts.

While Los Angeles has been the home of two previous Olympic Games, 2028 would mark the first time the city will host the Paralympic Games since the two Games began taking place in the same city and venues in 1988.

If you would like to support the team and help pay for their training and travel expenses, please donate. Thank you!

Sarah Bettencourt is the 2020 ISA World Surfing Championship Gold Medalist has represented Team USA on the Toyota USA Surfing Para Surf national team for the past two years in the Women’s Para Surf Prone 1 division.

Sarah Bettencourt

San Diego, Calif.

Growing up as a recreational surfer in Ocean City, MD, Sarah was drawn to the water. She is the 2020 ISA World Surfing Championship Gold Medalist has represented Team USA on the Toyota USA Surfing Para Surf national team for the past two years in the Women’s Para Surf Prone 1 division.

Captain Bettencourt (USMC, Retired) was training as a helicopter pilot when a rare neurological disorder affected the use of her hands. Remaining in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Adjutant, Sarah continued to serve until her disability worsened to where she could no longer walk, forcing her to medically retire in 2012. Her symptoms affected any part of her body causing weakness, loss of coordination, or loss of use in those areas, which remained for a day or for the rest of her life.

With her constantly changing and sometimes very serious symptoms, Sarah struggled to find her place back in society until she was introduced to adaptive sports.

At her first event, Sarah realized by adapting equipment and technique, she could accomplish anything!

She then founded San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey, a para ice hockey club, for others to learn this same lesson through a team sport. Sarah played on the US Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team for several years when she was introduced to adaptive surfing at the Challenged Athlete Foundation’s clinic before the 2017 ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships.

Sarah now lives a full and happy life with her husband and two sons, serving others through adaptive sports and representing her nation in sled hockey and surfing.

One of the pioneers of both Para Surfing and WCMX, Christiaan “Otter” Bailey spent 11 years traveling the world on the WCT and WQS putting on expression sessions to promote the growth of adaptive (para) surfing

Christiaan “Otter” Bailey

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Christiaan “Otter” Bailey was born in Santa Cruz, California, grew up in France and was a professional free surfer, skateboarder and surf safari guide in West Africa for a number of years. In 2006 during the filming of a skateboarding video, Bailey crashed his skateboard, fracturing several vertebrae in his back, which made him dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

Christiaan immediately set to the task of redesigning and fabricating both his wheelchair and his surfboards, so that he could return to the skatepark and the waves.

One of the pioneers of both Para Surfing and WCMX, Christiaan spent 11 years traveling the world on the WCT and WQS putting on expression sessions to promote the growth of adaptive (para) surfing. In 2013, he was approached by the International Surfing Association to join the committee to create the ISA World Para Surfing Championship.

He is a five-time USA surfing national champion, 8-time ISA World Para Surfing Champiomship medalist and currently remains the first and only adaptive surfer so far to surf Mavericks and Pipeline.

Christiaan is the Captain of Team USA’s Para Surf team, serves on both the board of directors of USA Surfing and the ISA Adaptive Surfing Advisory Board.

Dana Cummings has been recognized for his work with the disabled and with veterans several times. He has been named a CNN Hero, a California Veteran of the year, and Patriot of the Year.

Dana Cummings

Pismo Beach, Calif.

Dana Cummings is a Gulf War veteran and founder of AmpSurf. He served six years in the Marines including service in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In late 2002 Dana lost his lower left leg in a car wreck. Four months after his accident Dana learned to surf and then founded The AmpSurf, Learn to Surf program in early 2003, to help rehabilitate through the healing power of adaptive surfing and the ocean.

Dana is a certified adaptive surf instructor and developed the program used by the International Surf Association (ISA) to teach adaptive surf coaches worldwide. Dana is a team rider and member of Toyota USA Surfing and has been representing USA Surfing in global competitions since 2019. Dana is also a three-time West Coast Champion and rider in the Western Surfing Association. Dana partnered AmpSurf with the ISA in 2020 to hold the 2020 AmpSurf ISA World Para-Surfing Championships in La Jolla, CA.

Dana has been recognized for his work with the disabled and with veterans several times. He has been named a CNN Hero, a California Veteran of the year, and Patriot of the Year.

Dana also coaches youth sports and has five children.

Jose Martinez started competing in 2018. After losing his first competition, he promised himself he was going to do his best to become the greatest adaptive surfer in his division. He qualified for Team USA to compete in the 2020 AmpSurf World Para Surfing Championship and is currently ranked third in his division.

Jose Martinez

Apple Valley, Calif.

Jose Martinez is a retired army veteran, medically discharged in 2014 after stepping on an I.E.D. in March of 2012.

He said he woke up 10 days after the explosion as a triple amputee. Doctors told him he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life but he’s been proving them wrong ever since.

He found a love for surfing while recovering at the Naval Medical Center of San Diego surfing therapy program.

“I fell in love from the moment I took off on my first wave,” Jose said.

Jose started competing in 2018. After losing his first competition, he promised himself he was going to do his best to become the greatest adaptive surfer in his division. He qualified for Team USA to compete in the 2020 AmpSurf World Para Surfing Championship and finished 2021 with his first Gold Medal.

He says his dreams are slowly becoming a reality.

“I can’t wait to show the world what I have been working on. I’m just grateful to be alive and be able to showcase my talent to the world!!!” Jose declared.

Breezy Bochenek completed two Ironman 70.3 events over the past year as she trains with her dad and siblings hoping to become the youngest amputee to complete a full Ironman 140.6.

Breezy Bochenek

San Ramon, Calif.

Breezy Bochenek is a 20 year old above the knee amputee from the Bay Area, California. Breezy grew up as the youngest of five, playing soccer and running around. At nine years old, she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, which led to the amputation of her left leg above the knee. She quickly became a part of the Challenged Athletes Foundation family and was granted a running prosthetic. Two weeks later, she was competing in her first triathlon.

Breezy is passionate about her faith, singing and being outdoors with her dog Freedom, and loves being by the ocean or surrounded by trees.

She has completed two Ironman 70.3 events over the past year as she trains with her dad and siblings hoping to become the youngest amputee to complete a full Ironman 140.6.

Over the years, Breezy had the opportunity to surf at CAF’s surf clinics during their SDTC weekend. It was always the highlight of her trip. In 2016 Breezy was given the opportunity to attend the Junior Seau youth Surf Program where she spent several days learning from some amazing surfers. The event culminated with the band Switchfoot’s annual Bro-Am event where she was able to surf with and later sing on stage with lead singer Jon as the they raised money and awareness for youth in need.

She is thankful every time she gets to be in the water, and is looking forward to all the waves to be caught in the future.

Barbara Pacheco started surfing in 2017, when she was the first completely female blind surfer in the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship.

Barbara Pacheco
Valley Mills, Texas

Barbara Pacheco has been a member on the USA surf team for three years, earning a Bronze Medal in the 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championship after earning a Silver Medal in 2020 and placing fifth in 2019.

She started surfing in 2017, when she was the first completely female blind surfer in the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship.

She says what she loves most about surfing is being able to experience the freedom of riding a wave. “It lets me escape from having to worry about missing a curb when walking the street or bumping into coffee tables,” Pacheco said.

Alison McKelvie Eakin is the mother of three and feels a strong connection to Mother Earth in the water and on her homestead.

Alison McKelvie Eakin

Ojai, Calif.

Alison McKelvie Eakin began surfing five years ago when she moved to California from Colorado. She is stoked to be in Pismo for her first surfing competition.

When she is not in the water, Alison spends time in the garden. She has been an organic farmer for years and teaches people about how to grow food and care for our Mother Earth.

Alison believes that helping people reconnect with the earth, learning how to tend to her and grow food will help them heal and thrive. For many years, she has been largely self-sufficient- growing her own fruits, vegetables and meat. Before moving to Ojai, she lived for over a decade on a 12-acre biodynamic farm that she created in rural Colorado.

Alison built the house where she home birthed her three children and lived a rustic life off grid on the homestead. There she milked cows, sold veggies at farmers markets and homeschooled her children.

Alison learned about her eye condition when she was 14. The doctors told her that western medicine did not have a cure and that she would eventually lose all of her sight. She has spent over 20 years traveling the globe and learning from indigenous peoples about alternative ways of healing in pursuit of a cure for her eye condition. Through her studies she has rediscovered the gifts within her that come along with a different way of seeing and she is grateful to the Creator for the way she has been made. Alison is currently studying with a Cherokee Elder and donates much of her time in supporting the non-profit Sacred Indigenous Preservation.

Alison is so excited to be surfing for Team USA and hopes that this is the beginning of a long career surfing for her country.

Alison’s goal is to inspire other girls and women who are visually impaired or blind to continue to follow their dreams and learn new things. She has found ways of adapting to life with low vision that help support her navigate through vision loss.

A few years ago, Alison gave up driving due to her vision. It was a challenging time for her admitting to others about her vision loss and for over a year she gave up surfing because she couldn’t drive to the beach. She has now developed a network of drivers and many friends who can support her and bring her to the waves. Alison is stoked to ride this wave of competitive surfing with Team USA and is excited to see where it leads her.

Outside of surfing Katherine Beattie helped pioneer WCMX, being the first woman to compete in the sport, and also the first woman in the world to land a backflip on a wheelchair.

Katherine Beattie
Los Angeles, Calif.

Growing up in 1990s L.A. gave Katherine Beattie a love for skateboarding and surfing at an early age, but it wasn’t until she started using a wheelchair in her mid-20s that she started actively participating in either sport.

In her first ISA World Para Surfing Championship in 2021, Katherine won a Copper Medal! She was so excited to represent Team USA and help them win team Gold.

Katherine was introduced to adaptive skateboarding through a Life Rolls On event called “They Will Skate Again” where she spent the day skating with Jim “Red Dog” Muir and a bunch of other Venice locals. After that event, Katherine decided she wanted to try skateboarding on her own, so she got the biggest deck she could find, taught herself to skate on her knees and became a regular at Venice Skatepark.

A few years later the folks at Life Rolls On (LRO) finally convinced Katherine to give surfing a try, but once she did, she was hooked. After a few years of surfing a couple times a summer with LRO, Katherine decided to get her own prone surfboard to increase her skills, which is when she found Waves4All.

Katherine made steady progress surfing with Waves4All, going from surfing with 3–4 volunteers, to catching waves unassisted before Covid forced her to take over a year off.

Outside of surfing Katherine helped pioneer WCMX, being the first woman to compete in the sport, and also the first woman in the world to land a backflip on a wheelchair. She enjoys bringing other girls and women into the sport, which has grown to have a women’s division at almost every contest. Katherine is just coming off three straight podium finishes in WCMX, including 3rd in the first ever Adaptive Skateboarding division at the 2021 Dew Tour in Des Moines, Iowa.

When she’s not at the skatepark or in the ocean, Katherine is a television writer and producer, who is always looking for ways to include action sports and challenged athletes in her next project.

Liv earned a Gold Medal in the 2020 AMPSurf ISA Para Surfing World Championships in La Jolla, Calf. Her long-term goal is representing her country in the Paralympics, hopefully in 2028, and continuing to pursue her passion for surfing and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

Liv Stone

Carlsbad, Calif.

Liv Stone is a two-time ISA World Para Surfing Champion in the Stand 1 division — clinching Gold in 2020 and 2021!

She is a spunky 18-year-old, congenital, bilateral, above the elbow amputee born in Pennsylvania. She grew up not knowing anything different with her arms, just adapting and managing challenges along the way, always pushing hard to do her best. She has been an active athlete growing up, playing many sports: soccer, basketball, field hockey, cheering, horseback riding, and rifle.

Liv surfed for the first time in Bethany Hamilton’s 2017 Beautifully Flawed Retreat in Del Mar, California. She loved catching waves with Bethany and when she left, she living in Pennsylvania, she wasn’t sure if she would ever surf again.

The next summer, she was invited to her first Challenge Athletes Foundation surf clinic in San Diego. She received a week of coaching the fundamentals of surfing and participated at the Bro-Am Festival at Moonlight Beach. While there, she was partnered with surfing pro Rob Machado. She knew by the end of that week, that she had found her true passion and wanted to pursue surfing.

After returning home, she was determined to overcome her distance from the ocean, purchased her own board, and began driving two and a half hours on the weekends to get in the ocean. She worked hard training in the gym and water over the next several months.

After getting more water time with her mentor Bethany Hamilton and competition experience, she was invited to be a member of the USA Adaptive Surf Team to compete in the 2018 Stance ISA Para Surfing World Championships, where she helped the team win a team gold medal!

In April 2019, Liv and her mom moved to Carlsbad, California where she started competing in the Western Surfing Association events, USA Surfing Championships and won the first ever female adaptive heat in the WSL Super Girl Surf Pro.

Liv’s long-term goal is representing her country in the Paralympics, hopefully in 2028, and continuing to pursue her passion for surfing and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

Quinn’s greatest hope is to encourage young girls to get out in the water and experience the joy of surfing, but also to let them know that they can be competitive in any sport, even if they have limitations.

Quinn Waitley

Coronado, Calif.

Quinn Waitley is a 26-year-old professional adaptive athlete. Born and raised in San Diego, she comes from an athletic family of seven girls. She is one of four identical quadruplet sisters, who were born 28 weeks prematurely. Quinn was born with quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy (CP).

Growing up, Quinn competed in many sports from wheelchair rugby to basketball to WCMX (wheelchair skateboarding). She has always loved the water and once she was exposed to surfing, she fell in love.

The started surfing at age 20 — the first year that the ISA World Para Surfing Championships began. “As soon I saw the event and the surfers competing, told my family that I wanted to be on the USA Surfing national team,” she said. In June 2018, that dream became a reality, when she became the first USA female in the Assist Prone division (Prone 2).

She has been a member of Team USA for the last four years, earning gold, silver, bronze and copper medals. She remains in the top six Women Prone Assist division surfers in the world, and a Toyota USA Surfing Champion for four years running.

Quinn says her favorite part about surfing is getting out of her wheelchair, leaving it on the beach and “going as fast as I can on any wave!”

Quinn’s greatest hope is to encourage young girls to get out in the water and experience the joy of surfing, but also to let them know that they can be competitive in any sport, even if they have limitations.

Quinn and her family formed a non-profit called “Team Quinn” to support people with any challenging condition to surf and enjoy the water. One of Team Quinn’s goals is to help anyone with disabling circumstances, along with their family and friends, to experience surfing or just a day at the Beach. They serve people at every level from beginner to experienced in the water and on a board.

“I am so fortunate to be able to surf and represent my country and I thank God for the body and abilities He has given, and for my family and friends who provide so much love and support to help me surf and enjoy my life,” Quinn said. “Since I was five years old it’s been my dream to go to the Paralympics, and many of my dreams to become a competitive and professional athlete have already come true. Now, I am hoping to make the Paralympics as an adaptive surfer, when they become a reality — we are so close!”

Carter’s first year competing was in 2018 and he has been a returning team member for USA Surfing ever since, helping Team USA win the ISA World Para Surfing Championship team Gold Medal in 2018 and Silver in 2020.

Carter Hess

Panama City, Florida

Carter Hess is the 2021 Toyota USA Surfing Para Surf Champion in the Para Stand division.

He grew up in Panama City Beach, Florida and joined the United States Army January 2009. After finishing basic training, AIT, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia he was assigned to the 1/508th Parachute Infantry Regiment 4 Brigade 82nd Airborne Division.

He deployed to Afghanistan twice (2009 and 2012). On his second deployment he stepped on a pressure plate IED (June 29, 2012). He was sent to Walter Reed Military Medical Center where he recovered from his wounds.

After returning to Florida in 2013 he slowly returned to water sports and eventually got back into surfing.

Carter’s first year competing was in 2018 and he has been a returning team member for USA Surfing ever since, helping Team USA win the ISA World Para Surfing Championship team Gold Medal in 2018 and Silver in 2020.

Joshua’s unique way of movement makes those who watch him wonder if he really does use The Force. He has always been intrigued by anything which tested the full human, mind, body, and soul.

Joshua Loya

Santa Cruz, Calif.

Joshua “The Jedi” Loya started surfing much later in life, at the age of 37. A life-long martial artist, Joshua had always been intrigued by anything which tested the full human, mind, body, and soul. A year before the dawn of his surfing journey, Joshua left his career as a computer instructor and accessibility consultant to pursue martial arts and adventure living full-time. Joshua intended surfing to be a momentary diversion from his grueling martial arts training schedule, but he fell in love with it, and he hasn’t stopped since.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, he used to love to watch surfers when he was younger, but surfing was one of many activities deemed too dangerous with sight limited to one eye.

In January of 1996, his sophomore year of high school, an accident left him blind in both eyes. Joshua had several unsuccessful surgeries to restore his eyesight, but, before all options had been exhausted, Joshua chose to stop pursuing treatment. “I knew life was going to be difficult. I also knew that the quality of my life would be better, once I no longer had to worry about losing vision I did not have.”

Joshua moved forward with his adventuring. Rock climbing, water skiing, and the martial arts training he had dreamed of since he had been a boy. Joshua threw himself into his martial arts practice, eventually earning five separate black belts and rank across seven styles. Then, Joshua started surfing. His life was never the same.

Joshua’s confident and intuitive approach to surfing continues to make an impression with all those who witness him in the water.

Joshua has won three USA Surfing National Adaptive Surfing Championship titles, a U.S. Open Adaptive Surfing Championships win, and a spot on the podium at 2020’s AmpSurf ISA World Para Surfing Championships. Joshua is also the first ever WSA (Western Surfing Association) West Coast Visually Impaired Champion in the organization’s 60-year history.

He was the first ever 100 percent blind surfer to ride Kelly Slater’s wave pool at the WSL Surf Ranch, having less than a year of surf experience at the time. His unique way of movement makes those who watch him wonder if he really does use The Force.

Joshua is affiliated with Waves 4 All Surf and Sail, and he is coached by John White. He is a member of Surfight Jiu Jitsu in Del Mar, California. He is a direct student of Joel Tudor.

Ethan thrives in the ocean, calling it “the medicine that you can’t get from the doctor.”

Ethan Kairer

San Diego, Calif.

Originally from Philadelphia, Ethan grew up spending summers at the Jersey Shore. In June of 2014 Ethan Kairer suffered a T9 spinal cord injury when he swimming and jumped from a 30-foot ledge, it left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Ethan was reintroduced to surfing as a paraplegic in 2016, through a community of adaptive surfers in North County San Diego. After traveling back and forth between Encinitas Ca, and Philadelphia for a few years. Every time he was on the East Coast he really missed the healing power of the ocean, and decided to make the move to a new home Oceanside, Calif. in 2020.

Ethan is a 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championnnship Open Sit Silver Medalist, a two-time National Champion in the Waveski division and 2020 WSA champion.

He is the unofficial champion of the First Japan Open adaptive surfing championship in 2019 at the 2021 Olympic Games venue — Shida Shita beach. The adaptive event was cancelled due to typhoon Hagbis, but that didn’t stop Ethan from charging the punishing typhoon waves to catch some amazing rides.

Ethan thrives in the ocean, calling it “the medicine that you can’t get from the doctor.”

You can find him most mornings crawling into the water for his medicine at local spots around San Diego. He is excited to represent Team USA and compete in the 2021 ISA world championship in Pismo Beach in December.

Darian was motivated to have Para Surfing included the WSL’s Supergirl Pro event, having spent most of her career competing with so few women in the sport, often being the only woman competing in some of the contests.

Darian Bailey Haynes

Indiana/Hawaii

Darian has competed in every ISA World Para Surfing Championship since the event’s start and is the 2021 Bronze Medalist in the Stand 1 division.

Born with a Brachial Plexus injury to her left shoulder, Darian began surfing with the help of an adaptive surfing program in 2010 when her military family moved to Oahu. In 2014 she began competing in local competitions on Oahu. That eventually grew into State and National Competitions, followed by the ISA World Championships in 2015.

At age 15, Darian was the very first Adaptive woman to win an ISA World Para Surfing Championship Medal in 2015. Darian has earned three individual medals and one team medal.

Darian spent 2019 on tour competing in 10 contests all over the world, and most of 2020 in Hawaii working with Coach Doug Silva.

In 2020 Darian and family relocated to the Mainland to enable her to fund her surf training and travel, and to make the transition to Team USA. She also began training for the Paralympic Snowboarding Team with Adaptive Action Sports in Copper Mountain, Colorado, where she plans to return for the 2021–22 season. Darian’s dream is to be a Paralympic surfer and snowboarder. She is also an active skateboarder in her down time, and can be found roaming around the western US in her home on wheels.

Darian will be competing in the WSL Supergirl Pro for a third time in September 2021. She and her mother contacted Supergirl event organizers about adding the Adaptive surfers after attending the all ladies event in 2018.

Darian was motivated to have Para Surfing included the WSL’s Supergirl Pro event, having spent most of her career competing with so few women in the sport, often being the only woman competing in some of the contests.

Through surfing and surf therapy, Mike has regained strength in his front hip flexors and some of his upper legs. The progress was so great, he has gone from competing in the Prone Assist classification to Unassisted, and now Kneeling.

Mike Pingatore

Chico, Calif.

Mike Pingatore is a 32 year-old Para Surfer from Northern California. He has been adaptive surfing for four years — three at the professional level.

He started surfing as therapy six months after a car accident that left him with a spinal cord injury.

After a year of surf therapy, he entered his first contests, placing second in the U.S. Open Adaptive Surfing Championships and third in the ISA World Para Surfing Championship. The year after his impressive U.S. Open performance, he made the Toyota USA Surfing national team. He has podiumed or won in the men’s prone division at every international event he’s competed in all over the world from Hawaii, Japan, UK, Wales, Bali, up and down the west coast and more).

Through surfing and surf therapy, he has regained strength in his front hip flexors and some of his upper legs. The progress was so great, he has gone from competing in the Prone Assist classification to Unassisted, and now Kneeling.

“Having to relearn to surf in a new style (without full function of your body) has been tricky, but that’s why it called “adaptive” surfing. We adapt to our situation and continue to do what we love, and for me that’s surfing,” Mike said.

Mike placed 10th in his first Kneel competition at the 2021 ISA World Championship, just before COVID-19 restrictions shut down all competitions.

Mike said he’s been working to keep his spirits high, staying active, and is back doing surf competitions. “We must keep improving ourselves and the people around us. You can do anything you set your mind to. Start by doing what is necessary, then figure out what is possible, and with much enthusiasm and stoke suddenly you are doing the impossible. Just don’t forget to smile.”

Ty’s advice is to find something that makes you feel alive, like surfing does for him.

Ty Duckett

North Hollywood, Calif.

Ty Duckett is from West Philadelphia (born & raised). Ty moved to SoCal at the beginning of 2014 (“after getting into a fight at a neighborhood playground” — he likes to joke).

In 12 months, Ty’s life was abruptly altered forever. Ty became a left leg above the knee amputee due to a tragic motor vehicle collision.

A few years into traveling the recovery road, Ty tried a non-traditional form of therapy: ParaSurfing. Ty’s introduction to surfing was by way of the LifeRollsOn organization which was founded by Team USA ParaSurfing member and champion, Jesse Billauer.

It was Ty attending his first LifeRollsOn event at Huntington Beach in August of 2017 that sparked Ty’s infatuation for the ocean and surfing. Ty continued surfing with LRO at every event he could possibly attend.

Over the years, Ty gained a great deal of his surf experience from another amazing organization named Waves4All, which was founded by Team USA ParaSurfing member & champion Joshua Loya’s coach, John White.

Ty used the downtime of the COVID pandemic as an opportunity to learn more about surfing and sharpen his skills with the guidance of another great surf organization called Color the Water (CTW). Consistently surfing with David Malana of CTW has been an awesome way Ty has been able to build upon his surf foundation. Ty’s progress was his surf silver lining to an unprecedented 2020.

Over the years since Ty’s injury, Surfing has been positively therapeutic and the ParaSurfing community has been very welcoming. These awesome vibes led Ty to begin competing & gaining experience in ParaSurfing events & clinics.

Ty is now the 2020–2021 Western Surfing Association West Coast Champion for the above knee stand division. And Ty has recently earned a spot on the Toyota USA Surfing ParaSurfing national team and will represent Team USA ParaSurfing in the December ISA World ParaSurfing Championship.

“There’s a lot more going into surfing besides just wave riding,” Ty told the LA Sentinel. “This was a life-changing activity that found me.”

Realizing that paralysis affects one in 10 Americans, Jesse created the Life Rolls On Foundation that takes thousands of people living with disabilities into the ocean, often for the first time in their lives.

Jesse Billauer

Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Two weeks before entering the pro surfing world with competitors like Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, and Shane Dorian, Jesse broke his 6th vertebrae and faced life as a quadriplegic.

Four years later, he got back into the ocean helping to shape adaptive surfing into the global movement it has become today. Realizing that paralysis affects one in 10 Americans, he created the Life Rolls On Foundation that takes thousands of people living with disabilities into the ocean, often for the first time in their lives.

In 2015, Jesse won a gold medal in the first ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship hosted in La Jolla Shores CA. He did it again in the 2020 ISA World Championship, getting the score he needed in the last 13 seconds of the final heat, one of the most epic moments in sports history. He brought the drama and excitement to 2021, winning a Silver Medal a fierce battle with teammate Jose Martinez who clinched Gold in the final minutes.

Jesse lives in Los Angeles with his twin boys and an impressive collection of surfboards and epic friends.

Alana Nichols is the first U.S. female Paralympian to win gold medals at a Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

Alana Nichols

Reno, Nevada

Alana Nichols is the first U.S. female Paralympian to win gold medals at a Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

She is a three-sport phenomenon in wheelchair basketball, alpine skiing and Para Surfing Waveski. She grew up in Farmington, N.M., and was an avid snowboarder throughout her youth.

In 2002, Nichols landed back-first on a rock while attempting a backflip on her snowboard. The injury caused her to be paralyzed from the waist down.

Nichols didn’t let her athletic career stop there, as she began playing wheelchair basketball just two years later and helping Team USA to win gold at the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008.

She helped Team USA win team gold in the 2018 and 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championship, and is often competing against an all-male field.

“Once I became an athlete I came into my own and discovered my true self; that’s the power of sports — it can teach you, inspire you, and challenge you to do and be your best no matter who you are, no matter what your capability is,” Alana said.

Sean Brody
Team USA ParaSurf coach

Born into the epicenter of the surf industry in Southern California, Sean Brody cut his teeth at Rusty Surfboards, where he climbed the ropes from shop grom, to Surf Instructor, to Staff Photographer and Digital Media Manager. Brody has traveled the world surfing, photographing, working in community development and has completed a Master’s Degree in Hospitality Tourism Management with an Emphasis in Sustainable Surf Tourism along the way (from San Diego State University).

Brody has had his hands in many surfing development and philanthropy projects, including founding the international non-profit organization, Surf Resource Network, co-founding the first sustainable surf tourism operations in Liberia, West Africa- Kwepunha Retreat and Kwepunha Surf Academy, serving as the Africa Development Adviser for the International Surfing Association, and taking on the the role of the International Surfing Association’s Membership Manager- where he consulted for National Surfing Federations across the globe, worked to help get surfing included in the Olympic Games, and helped to conceptualize and produce the first ever ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship.

Brody launched the Surf Education Academy to help ensure that everyone in the water has an amazing surfing experience by offering premium educational programming that focuses on safety, quality, and best practices through hands on learning and Brody has now been coaching for USA Surfing’s Para Surf Team for the past several years.

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USA Surfing

USA Surfing

The official ISA-recognized national federation for the ​sport of surfing in the USA // usasurfing.org