Surfing champion adapts to the challenge
AS THE waves crash in at Cabarita on a cool winter’s morning, newly crowned Adaptive Australian Surfing champion Dale Taylor will brave Mother Nature to paddle out to his favourite place in the world.
Cold or warm, big or small waves, it’s all the same to Taylor, who took the sport up when he moved to the Coast as a 13-year-old some 43 years ago.
“As soon as I got near the ocean, I was straight into surfing and hooked, and I’ve been surfing ever since,” Taylor said.
“I owe surfing so much. All my life, it’s given me an identity and I never had to worry about where I would fit in.”
Taylor found his place in the world of surfing, a place where he felt safe and cleansed of any troubles he may have been facing.
A Thalidomide baby, Taylor’s right leg is bent and half-footed, but it has never held the Adaptive AS1 category champion back.
While proud of lifting his title aloft at Cabarita at the inaugural nudie Australian Adaptive Surf Titles last week, a humble Taylor’s real pride lies in leading the charge for the genesis of Adaptive Surfing.
“To see what some of the other guys go through just to get to the water’s edge leaves me in awe,” Taylor said.
“I’m incredibly proud to have won the title, but for me, it’s all about getting the movement going.
“Trying to get more disabled people into the movement is the inspiration.”
The movement is growing so much so that an Australian team including Taylor, adaptive world champion Mark “Mono” Stewart (AS2), former Paralympian David Monk (AS3) and Jade “Red” Wheatley (AS1) will head to California later in the year to take on the USA in the Adaptive World Championships.
Needing to raise funds and awareness, Taylor and his fellow trailblazers will contribute to an 11-day walk from Newcastle to Manly from July 30 in the “Walk for Waves”.
“Walk for Waves is all about raising awareness for Adaptive Surfing and getting us to the world titles,” Taylor said.
“We’re trying to get Adaptive Surfing into the mainstream for people who are challenged and we need support. We also want to get the Adaptive Surfing name out there so we can come home from the World Titles and say ‘we won, we stuck it to the Americans’.”
According to Taylor, Australia is currently well behind America, but is determined to bridge that gap in the future.
While the proudest moment of his life was the birth of his daughter, Taylor said seeing two surfers compete in five World Title categories one day would come close.
Until then, he’s content with shouldering the mantle of holding the current Australian title and the responsibility it carries.
“The future Adaptive champion might just be sitting on the couch playing video games and if we could just tap into them and get them down the beach, we can inspire them and usher in the next generation,” he said.
To support Taylor and the Australian Adaptive team on their walk, visit Walk For Waves.