Stab Magazine | The Six Best Disabled Surfers In The World

The Six Best Disabled Surfers In The World

With the second-ever ISA World Adaptive Championships set to take place next month, here’s a look at the best from the world of disabled surfing. 

news // Nov 13, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Not all will compete in the second ISA Adaptive World Surfing Championships beginning next month (Dec 8-11th) in La Jolla, California, but each of these surfers has, in their own, way redefined what was thought possible on the ocean. From Mike Coots to the Flying Squirrel, ‘Mono’ Stewart and the blind surfers of Brazil, here are our top rated disabled surfers. 

Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart
The gold medal winner from the inaugural 2015 ISA World Adaptive Championships is 53-year-old Byron Bay kneeboarder and fisherman, Mark Stewart (or Mono as he prefers to be called). Mono lost his leg to bone cancer as a teenager, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a world-class talent, disabled or otherwise. Known for his silky carves, smooth rhythm and stylish tube riding, Mono was a State Champion in the able-bodied division before he won an Adaptive world title. 

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One leg, one tunnel, no worries..

That’s the best thing about surfing, you get in the water, whether you’ve got one leg, whether you’re a paraplegic, whatever, it’s a real equaliser,” he told Australia’s ABC.

The win in the ISA World’s meant so much to him he got it tattooed on his left shoulder. 


Serious dedication.

Mike Coots:
Three weeks after Mike Coots had his leg ripped from him by a large Tiger Shark while bodyboarding off the Hawaiian island of Kauai, he was already back in the water. 

“It took a little over three weeks for the stitches and staples to come out and the risk of infection to go away.

“Then it was straight back to the ocean. I was fortunate to have no bad dreams or any physiological problems.

“Being out of the water for those few weeks was the hardest part of the attack.

“It had been the longest I had been out of the water since a kid, and I was beyond ready to get back to the surf,” he tells 

Far from being bitter, Coots has since become one of the staunchest protectors of sharks in the world. He placed 4th in the final of last year’s Adaptive World Surfing Championships, losing out to event winner Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart.

Quincy ‘The Flying Squirrel’ Symonds:
Born with a genetic disorder that affects her body’s ability to produce cortisone, seven-year-old Quincy is relying on steroids taken up to three times a day to keep her going. It means she’s living life on a knife edge with any sickness requiring her to seek “intensive” medical treatment, says her mother. After winning her first surfing contest aged four, Quincy has become an international surfing sensation, earning prime-time coverage on the likes of American ABC and inside the pages of the Huffington Post. Not only does she rip on a surfboard, but she’s also a demon on the vert ramp and a white belt in Brazilian jujitsu.

Bethany  Hamilton:
This woman needs no introduction. Before losing her arm as a 13-year-old to a Tiger Shark off the coast of Kauai, Bethany was already well on her way to becoming one of surfing’s greats. Even without it she managed one of the great performances in the history of sport in this year’s Fiji Pro, knocking out 2016 world champ Tyler Wright as well as six-time world champ Steph Gilmore on her way to a remarkable semi-final finish. Six months after giving birth to her child she also rode this:

The Blind Surfers Of Brazil (Derek Rabelo and Figue Diel)
Derek Rabelo, named after Hawaiian legend Derek Ho, was born with Glaucoma rendering him blind from a young age. With two uncles who were professional surfers and a surf-fizzed old boy, riding waves might not have been in his sights, but it was in Derek’s life in every other way. At 17 he was given his first surfboard and shortly after found himself following Makua Rothman into the lineup at Pipe.

Figue Diel was a promising young surfer, fierce competitor and rival of the likes of Brazilian pro, Rodrigo Dornelles. He was blinded in a car accident when windshield shattered in his eyes though bounced back spectacularly, setting an example for his friends and family with his yoga practice and by getting back into surfing. His rides on this right point are mind blowing.


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