Left to right: Defending gold medal Team USA, multi-sport athlete Christy Gardner with her service dog Moxie, and José Martinez. Bottom: Mike Pingatore, Christiaan "Otter" Bailey, Liv Stone and Sarah Bettencourt
(San Clemente, Calif.) March 6, 2020 - USA Surfing is stoked to announce the team that will defend Team USA’s world title at the 2020 International Surfing Association (ISA) AmpSurf World Para Surfing Championship in La Jolla, Calif. March 11-15. Team USA’s 15 surfers are the top para surfing athletes from across the nation, and will compete against a record 140 athletes from 24 nations.
Team captain Christiaan “Otter” Bailey said the team has been training hard and looks strong! “We are ready to defend our world title! Team USA recruited a top flight roster, including for the first time ever, one third of our team being comprised of disabled veterans,” said Bailey, who is a five-time USA Surfing National Champion and the first adaptive surfer to ride both Mavericks and Pipeline.
This will be the fifth edition of the event, previously named the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship. The 2020 ISA AmpSurf World Para Surfing Championship includes an updated Para surfing classification system as part of ISA’s campaign to have Para Surfing added to the 2023 Pan American Games and eventually the Paralympic Games.
These updates allowed USA Surfing to recruit five new para surf athletes: Christy Gardner, Dana Cummings, Mike Pingatore, Jose Martinez and Shane Lopes. The five will join veterans Alana Nichols, Christiaan “Otter” Bailey, Carter Hess, Jesse Billauer, Joshua Loya, Liv Stone, Sarah Bettencourt, Quinn Waitley, Barbie Pacheco, and Ethan Kairer. See divisions and hometowns below.
“The mix of fresh and veteran talent will make this one of the most exciting teams to watch,” said USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse. “You can’t help but be incredibly moved by their skill, athleticism, and personal stories of grit and determination.”
For example, new comer Christina "Christy" Gardner is a 37-year-old retired Army veteran from Maine. She was injured overseas in 2006 and spent nearly five hears rehabbing. Thanks to rehab and her service dog Moxie, she was able to live on her own again and start participating in multiple adaptive sports. She’s been playing sled hockey for eight years and has been an assistant captain of the U.S. Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team for the past three. Gardner is in California working her way toward Tokyo 2020 qualification in shot put and discus. She says surfing is special because it’s more about patience and flow and feeling it, versus brute strength. In her free time, Gardner trains future service dogs for others.
“I’m super excited for this opportunity to represent the USA and to be out on the water with everyone,” Gardner said. “I love surfing, so to be able to represent my country while doing something so fun is awesome.”
Jose Martinez was medically discharged from military service in 2014 after stepping on an I.E.D. in 2012. He woke up 10 days later as a triple amputee with doctors telling him he would spend the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair. Martinez says he’s been proving them wrong ever since. He found his love for surfing while recovering at the Naval Medical Center of San Diego, which offers surfing therapy.
“I fell in love from the moment I took off on my first wave,” Martinez said. “I started competing in 2018 and lost my first competition. I promised myself from that day on that I was going to do my best and become the greatest adaptive surfer in my division. I made Team USA this year and my dreams are slowly becoming my reality I can’t wait to show the world what I have been working on. I'm grateful to be alive and be able to showcase my talent to the world!!!”
Dana Cummings grew up on a farm in rural Maine. He served six years in the Marines, including service in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In late 2002, he lost his lower left leg in a major car accident. Four months after his accident Cummings learned to surf. He then founded The AmpSurf, Learn to Surf program in early 2003, to help rehabilitate disabled veterans and local disabled through the power of the ocean.
Cummings has been competing for 16 years and has won and placed in several competitions. He is the 2019 Western Surfing Association Adaptive Stand Division Champion and was the 2011 overall adaptive champion. He also won the adaptive stand division in the Hawaii championships in 2011, and has placed second in the warriors division the last two years. This year Cummings placed fourth at the English adaptive open in Newquey, England. He is thrilled to be representing the USA at this year’s 2020 AmpSurf ISA World ParaSurfing Championships.
Mike Pingatore is a survivor many times over. In 2001, Burketts Lymphoma threatened his life multiple times. In 2003 Chronic Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy nerve damage in both heels challenged his youth. He survived a Cessna 182 plane crash, fractured his neck in a lacrosse game and manages chronic migraines. The capper was was a spinal cord injury suffered in a car accident during a bad storm in 2017.
Pingatore threw himself into his recovery, and after one year of surf therapy he competed in his first tournament at the US Open Adaptive Surf Championship and placed third. “From there I made the podium at every WSA contest,” said Pingatore, who also made got second in the Hawaiian Adaptive Surf Championship and won the Bali Open, Malibu Pro, and US Open Adaptive Surf Championship. “All of these have been in the prone division. I'm stoked to see how I do in the kneeling at my first time competing here at ISA worlds. No matter how much life throws at you, it's your mindset and how much you smile afterwards people are going to remember. "
Sixteen-year-old Liv Stone grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and is back for her second world championship. She moved to California last year to train and pursue her passion for surfing. Stone was born with congenital limb deficiency, plays soccer, was on her high school’s rifle team and dreams of becoming a Paralympic surfer. "Surfing is my world, my passion, and I couldn’t imagine my life without being in the water. When I am out surfing in the ocean, there’s a feeling I get like nothing I’ve ever felt, and that fills me with the utmost joy," Stone said in an Instagram post.
Twelve individual World Champions and one Team World Champion will be crowned in the event. The Championship classifies athletes into the following categories based on how the surfers ride the waves – standing, kneeling, prone, assisted and visually impaired.
AmpSurf, the title partner of the event for the first time, is an Adaptive Surfing organization established to Promote, Inspire, Educate, and Rehabilitate all people with disabilities and their families though Adaptive Surfing and other outdoor activities.
Team USA members in each division include:
Dana Cummings, Atascadero, Calif.
Carter Hess, Jacksonville, Fla.
Olivia Stone, Manheim, Penn.
Christy Gardner, Lewiston, Maine
Mike Pingatore, Chico, Calif.
Sarah Bettencourt, San Diego, Calif.
Quinn Waitley, San Diego, Calif.
Christiaan “Otter” Bailey, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Jesse Billauer, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jose Martinez, Apple Valley, Calif.
Barbie Pacheco, Valley Mills, Tex.
Josh Loya, La Mesa, Calif.
Shane Lopes, Morro Bay, Calif.
Alana Nichols, Reno, Nev.
Ethan Kairer, San Diego, Calif.
You can watch all the action live at www.isasurf.org
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