The Miracle of 2020 AmpSurf ISA Para Surfing Championship March 15 2020

In a current world reality where the cancellation and postponement of major sporting events are occurring at an increasing rate, the 2020 AmpSurf ISA Para Surfing Championship persisted. 

Opening Ceremony. La Jolla Shores, California. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans

A miracle has several definitions. One of those is "a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences." Sounds about right for this championship. Surely, many people were expectantly and anxiously fearing the cancellation of the event which was scheduled for this past March 11th through today, March 15th at La Jolla Shores, California. After all, the NBA (National Basketball Association) has suspended its season, and the PGA (Professional Golfer's Association) cancelled The Players Tournament which was to run during the same time period in Florida. The World Surfing League cancelled ALL March events.

Yet teams from 21 nations, with over 130 competitors came together to have their world championship and see it through to the finals and closing ceremony. The contest run by the International Surfing Association (ISA) is considered to be the largest of its kind for surfers with physical challenges. 


Team USA Surfer Jose Martinez, cheering on teammate and with Buster Kawaski of Hawaii above after passing semifinal heat on Friday. Photo Credits: ISA/Pablo Jimenez and Chris Stone/The Times of San Diego 

Jose Martinez Praises Surfing For Saving His Life

Eight years ago this month U.S. Army veteran Jose Martinez, born of Salvadoran parents, was injured during a foot patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. An explosion severed both of his legs, his right arm, a finger and some internal organs. He woke up after 10 days in a coma. In 2014 Martinez was introduced to surfing at Balboa Naval Medical Center, and hasn't looked back. "The minute the water touches my body it's like nothing else matters," he says, adding " there’s no pain. There are no mental struggles. It’s just me and the wave.”

Martinez earned a Bronze medal in his category of Surf Prone 1, helping Team USA to an overall second place finish. The team celebrated the eight year anniversary since his accident with a cake on the beach. 

Henry Martinez of Team Costa Rica, with coaches Ariel Gutierrez left and Maikel Venegas on far right. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans 

Henry Martinez Inspires Others Through Surfing

Team Costa Rica's Henry Martinez has been surfing for three years. One of the stand-out surfers from Day 3, Henry won his semi-final heat with a combined two highest waves score of 8.60. He competes in the Men's VI 1 category (Visually Impaired), the classification by the IBSA (International Blind Sports Federation) for surfers who are considered blind. 

"Many people with disabilities have told me they didn't think they could surf until they saw me in the water. This is my motivation to compete and keep surfing," he told ISA announcers. The event was broadcasted live to fans across the world through the transmission of their website. 

An integral part of Henry's accomplishments is Costa Rica's Adaptive Surf Team Coach Maikel Venegas. He accompanies Henry in the water during both training and competitions. Venegas also coaches teammate Roy Calderon, category VI 2. 

Henry won the heart of many spectators, including the announcers. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans

Women Shine With Inspiring Performances 

Over thirty women from different nations brought their best game to the shores of La Jolla over the four days of competition in seven different categories.  Liv Stone of the U.S. combined a two point highest wave total of 14 points to win the Women's Para Surf Stand 1 category. Faith Lennox  of Hawaii finished in second, with a 9.54.

Liv Stone and Faith Lennox sharing a moment. Photo ISA/Sean Evans 

Exceptional performances were turned in by all of the women. Carmen Lopez, in the VI 1 category, finished first for Spain joining teammate Aitor Francesena for the gold medal in the same category for men, ultimately boosting their country to a first place overall for Teams.  

Podium Women's Stand 2. Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez 

Perhaps the youngest surfer to compete, Jimenez Ruiz from Team Costa Rica captured a Bronze medal for her country in the Women's Para Stand 2 category. Jimena won her semifinal on Friday to earn a berth in yesterday's final in her first international competition.

Team Costa Rica Raises Funds For Adaptive Surfing Team 

Team Costa Rica, referred to by announcers as "perhaps the team with the most spirit," finished in ninth place overall with the placement of Jimena, Henry and Roy Calderon, who garnered the silver medal for Men's VI 2 category. 

The team earned some of the money to make the trip to California through various fundraisers and events throughout Costa Rica and the donations of many fans. Natalia Vindas who won the bronze medal in 2017 for Prone, and Juan Ma Camacho, president of the Association of Adaptive Surfing in Costa Rica, did not compete. The two leaders gave up their spots so that two others surfers could go. Both are proactively involved in iniciatives that would result in more opportunities to all individuals. The Federation of Surf Costa Rica has recently included Adaptive Surfing as a category in the National Surfing Circuit this year. 

 Roy Calderon getting it done. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans 

In conclusion, there is a reason for everything and many times we don't understand why. The times are difficult now, but difficult times pass and faith must remain and stories need to be told. Perhaps there were too many stories of faith  that needed to be told to cancel this year's AmpSurf ISA Para Surfing Championship. After all, every competitor has already overcome a number of obstacles most people can not even imagine. Could that have created a manipulation of time through divine intervention which allowed the event to occur? Only Heaven knows. 

Safe travels to all. Surfers, thank you for inspiring people around the world with your performances and stories, especially during difficult times.

Thank you to the International Surfing Organization, AmpSurf Organization, and all the sponsors of this magnificent event, for all your hard work and the opportunities you create for an internationally more inclusive world through sport. 

Georgina Melatini, Team Argentina. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans

Congratulations to Team Spain on their first place Team finish. Photo: Sean Evans

Author Kate Hanley. Follow me on instagram @puravidaboardgear 

Sources: Thank you to the International Surfing Association, the New York Times, and The Times of San Diego for the information for this article. 

Note** Team Portugal had to leave early due to some concerns about international travel. The event finals and closing ceremony were pushed to Saturday to ensure completion of the event 

All photos by International Surfing Association. For complete results, articles and photos please visit the ISA website page of the event. 

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