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    ISA World Para Surfing Championship coming to Huntington Beach
    • April 28, 2023

    Huntington Beach has been selected to host the International Surfing Association’s World Para Surfing Championship later this year.

    The event, now in its eighth year, follows an Olympic-style format and if organizers are successful in their bid, it will soon be part of the Paralympic Games.

    Last year’s championships at Pismo Beach in Central California drew 180 athletes on 28 national teams, a huge leap from the first event in 2015 that drew 69 competitors from 18 nations. Competition this year will run from Nov. 5 to Nov. 11.

    The ISA is working to get the sport added into the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles; surfing debuted in the last Olympic Games in Tokyo.

    Huntington Beach officials have made it no secret that they want to host the surfing portion of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, and if approved by the International Paralympic Committee, surfing’s first Paralympic Games.

    “Huntington Beach checks all the key criteria boxes for venue selection for the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games’ venue selection,” said Kelly Miller, CEO of Visit Huntington Beach. “HB’s historical and iconic pier delivers arguably some of the most consistent waves in all of California.”

    And, if the Olympics, Paralympics and U.S. Open of Surfing were to be all held at the same time of year, there could be a operational cost savings by using the same set up on the sand for all three events, Miller noted.

    Surf City also has great accessibility from beach resort hotels, restaurants and shops to what would be the Olympic venue footprint near the pier, right in the heart of downtown, he noted.

    “The ability to move easily to and from the venue regardless of the challenges competitors or attendees might have during a very busy time is critically important,” Miller said.

    The city in recent years has installed two Mobi-Mats, strips of blue mesh material that lay across the sand as beach paths, near the pier so people in wheelchairs or who need a more solid surface can get closer to the water’s edge. There’s also one at the Equestrian Center to help access therapeutic horse riding programs at Central Park.

    Kumaka Jensen, who has spina bifida, is the first to use a Mobi-Mat in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The mat is a nylon mesh that lies on the sand and keeps devices like wheelchairs from sinking into the sand.(Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    And there’s more effort underway to make sure all visitors feel welcome, Miller said, with the city taking proactive approaches to develop programs and experiences that cater to a variety of populations who want a world-class beach experience.

    “Accessibility matters. We are forming a task force by mid-June that is representative of a variety of challenged populations to help us craft a strategic vision and plan,” he said. “Our vision is for Huntington Beach to be known as one of the most accessible cities in the country.”

    Being selected by the ISA as the 2023 World Para Surfing Championship venue will help spearhead those initiatives, he said, and discussions will be underway with hotels and community partners to streamline ideas and experiences “to make anyone’s visit to Surf City USA unforgettable.”

    The International Paralympic Committee is currently considering the inclusion of para surfing with the Los Angeles 2028 Organizing Committee, officials said.

    In January, the IPC governing board confirmed that para surfing has “demonstrated the competitive viability and integrity of the sport, as well as the strategic benefits to the Paralympic Games,” ISA officials said in a statement.

    Huntington Beach has played a historic role in the sport of surfing, hosting many major surfing events through the decades.

    The ISA World Surfing Games were held in town in 1984, 1996, 2006 and 2022, and the ISA World Juniors in 2005, 2018 and 2019. It’s also been home to the U.S. Open of Surfing for decades.

    “I am so excited to see the world’s best para surfers in the iconic Surf City USA for the very first time. It will be amazing to see the level of energy and joy that para surfing can bring to the Paralympics at such an ideal stage,” ISA President Fernando Aguerre said in the announcement. “Para surfing continues to grow every year as we run this amazing and important championship. Athlete participation grows and the level of performance and competition increases at such a phenomenal rate.”

    The ISA’s mission to create “A Better World Through Surfing,” is apparent through all the para surfing athletes, he said. “The life-changing effect that the ocean has is undeniable and surfing has played a key role in the healing of mind, body and spirit for so many in the para surfing community.”

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    ​ Orange County Register