Champion bounces back after competition collapse
TWO time world Adaptive surfing champion Mark 'Mono' Stewart is back home in Byron Bay after a highly successful European campaign winning the English, Welsh and Spanish Adaptive Surf Championships.
But late last year it seemed Mono's Adaptive surfing career had hit the wall.
In December he collapsed on Huntington Beach at the International Championships- a competition he was widely expected to win for the third time.
He was rushed hospital unable to move his arms with distraught supporters and officials suspecting he had a heart problem.
"It turned out to be a spinal issue, the result of an earlier surfing accident, with a nerve issue that paralysed my arms,” Mono said.
"I came back home under orders to take it easy and spent January in a wheelchair- which made me deteriorate really quickly, even with physio treatment.
In the end he decided to get back in the water and the ocean was his saviour.
"I just surfed every day for weeks and weeks getting fitter and fitter, building up the muscles around my spine.
Mono held off from competing in South Africa and Costa Rica competitions instead dedicating himself to the three competitions in Europe.
Stewart now believes its high time Byron Bay had its own International Adaptive Surfing competition.
He is now on the lookout for sponsors and supporters with the foresight to get behind the idea.
"How great would it be to get a International event here in Byron Bay,” he said.
"It's just the kind of positive news the town needs- imagine 80-100 Adaptive surfers here for a major competition.”
In Europe Mono won the Welsh competition in a wave pool.
"The wave pool is the future for Adaptive surfing- its the ideal way to get people with disabilities into the surf,” he said.
"Surfers can feel safe, there are lots of life guards and people to help, when its your turn you just paddle into the take off point, the pool surrounds are set up perfectly for wheelchairs and there is a wave every 90 seconds.
Stewart said despite the incredible popularity of Adaptive surfing in Europe and America things are moving slowly her in Australia.
"The good news is that the Australian Adaptive titles will be part of this year's Australian Surfing titles,” he said.
Mono lost a leg to cancer as a teenager and has always believed that surfing is one of the best thing a person with disabilities can be a part of.
"I would encourage anyone with a disability, or if you know someone with a disability to come and have a look at the Australian titles,” he said.
"Once you get started you don't look back- Gary Morgan from Style Surfing offers lessons and Dave Munk and I will sit down with you and pass on as much knowledge as we can and there is a whole range of people in our community ready to offer support.
"It costs nothing and its fantastic for your mental state, once you get out there, its just you and mother nature.”