Para Surfing’s Great Hope

Ever heard of the saying, two extra, minus one? In motion sports activities, it’s a shorthand workaround once you’re pushing your self and about to complete huge—that’s, to by no means utter the possibly self-destructing phrases of “last try” or “one more.” By no means.

As Christiaan Bailey jinxed it: “My famous last words were, ‘One last trick.’”

Filming for the storied Santa Cruz Skateboards firm in 2006, Bailey made the assertion after which blew out his knee, struggling compression fractures on two vertebrae. Then knowledgeable skateboarder and three-times nationwide champion surfer, the accident left Bailey paralyzed from the waist down—life modified endlessly.

“I don’t trip about it, though,” explains Bailey. “It might sound strange, but it was the best thing to ever happen to me … I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”

Rising up in Santa Cruz, Calif., the place he earned the nickname Otter in surf lineups similar to Steamer Lane, Bailey was as core as athletes got here within the worlds of surf and skate. As we speak, he’s no much less dedicated.

Bailey grew to become the primary paralyzed surfer to trip two of world’s most notorious waves: Mavericks and Pipeline. Mavericks is understood for breaking at gigantic sizes ranging between 25-60 toes on its face, whereas Pipeline is acknowledged because the proving grounds for skilled surfers in addition to the world’s deadliest wave claiming extra lives than another.

Over the previous 14 years, Bailey has labored carefully with a surfboard shaper to develop the proper board for his physique to surf within the susceptible place. Along with board design, Bailey makes use of ankle straps with magnetics to maintain his toes collectively and snap into place on the again of his customized boards. He additionally customizes his board choice to explicit waves relying on what number of turns he’ll be making. For the case of Mavericks, Bailey additionally makes use of a associate on a jet ski to tow him in to the large waves at about 40 mph. On typical, mortal-surfer waves, Bailey has developed a way to duck-dive, paddling out alongside everybody else.

Bailey on the famed Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. Courtesy Christian Bailey

Now 38, Bailey can also be making a reputation for himself in worldwide competitors. With 4 particular person silver medals on the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Adaptive Browsing Championships, he additionally claimed a bronze, silver and a gold that he’s presently defending for the Group division alongside together with his USA teammates. Successful the crew gold got here as a shock and honor for Bailey, who serves as its captain and sits on its board of administrators.

Subsequent up for Bailey and Group USA: the March 11-15 ISA World Para Browsing Championships in La Jolla, Calif.—retitled from prior 12 months’s as an ‘adaptive surfing’ championship.

“While it may seem superficial to some who are not in the know or in the industry,” Bailey explains, “the change in title is meant to reflect the overall Paralympic movement and ISA’s seriousness in getting it recognized as a Paralympic sport. The term para is short for parallel, which means a sport is operating in parallel with its able-bodied component.”

Since Bailey’s life-altering accident, he’s been displaying folks precisely what he’s able to.  Embracing a possibility to encourage has in flip influenced numerous others to hop on a board themselves. And now Bailey can benefit from the bigger momentum with these ISA strikes.

“Not many people can say they were in on the ground floor of a sporting movement, I definitely feel blessed to have this opportunity,” Bailey says of the game’s progress, the change in occasion title a key strategic ahead step in browsing’s inclusion within the Paralympic program.

Courtesy ISA/Sean Evans

That non-public outreach beings with the co-founding of the Ocean Healing Group in 2007, the place Bailey put himself on the entrance strains of encouraging others, “helping kids carve the ‘Dis’ out of disability.” Then he signed as much as journey the world to surf and trip his wheelchair in skateparks as a part of expression periods for marquee contest collection such because the World Surf League and Coastal Carnage.

By 2010, Bailey’s message was being properly heard. “Team Extreme” invited him to trip alongside fellow wheelchair skater Aaron Fotheringham to showcase their expertise and sport (aka WCMX) as a part of the Vancouver Paralympics Opening Ceremony. In 2013, organizers approached Bailey as soon as once more: this time to assist with the creation and conception of a real world championship.

Courtesy Christian Bailey

“Alex Reynolds from the ISA reached out with the idea of creating an adaptive surfing world championship,” Bailey explains. “It is a blessing to be able to help our community and light the torch for adaptive surfing to possibly become part of a Paralympic movement.”

The ISA is acknowledged because the world governing authority for browsing by the Worldwide Olympic Committee. Later this 12 months, browsing will make its official debut as an Olympic sport as a part of the Tokyo 2020 Video games. In the meantime, para browsing continues to work by the appliance and approval course of to hitch subsequent Paralympics, which is fully separate from the Olympic Video games. Because it sits now, Los Angeles 2028 can be the primary alternative for para browsing to formally be included, because the Paralympic occasions for the Paris 2024 Video games have already been finalized.

“At the end of the day it is a phenomenal movement and a phenomenal experience that we have all been gifted,” says Bailey. “I just can’t thank the ISA enough for giving our sport the opportunity to eventually join the Paralympics. It is going to be a beautiful thing one day when we all roll out for the Opening Ceremonies. I just hope I am still competing when that does happen.”

Watch Bailey and Group USA compete within the 2020 ISA World Para Browsing Championships reside, March 11-15 on-line at, and comply with him on Facebook and Instagram @insta_otter.

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