The Wave Bristol supercharges English Adaptive Surfing Open

Sunshine and waves were on tap at the concrete shores of The Wave, Bristol for the 2021 dryrobe English Adaptive Surfing Open.

An incredible day for all who joined us, the champions of the contest have been crowned, and we welcome 14 newly frothing adaptive surfers into our community after the launch of a Waikiki wave participation session. Our ambitions are to see adaptive surfing become a Paralympic sport and events such as this drive this movement one step closer. Here’s how the day unfolded…

The atmosphere was full of anticipation and excitement yesterday ahead of the start of the contest heats. The surfers came together, and friendly rivalries were reignited as the wave machine came to life and the first waves rolled through. Heats lasted for 6 sets of waves, all rides scored, and the top wave from the left and right side combined to give final positioning at the end of the contest.

Setting the day off, the Assisted Division sparked the interest of the crowds. Mark Hagger, competing with Surfing England for the first time excelled with a wave score of 7.17, and he took champion title. Battling for the other top spots and in very close scores were Jay Friedlander, Mark Bowra and Tash Davies

In the standing crisp turns were completed, riding in the pocket, and many charging to get into those cheeky barrel sections that pop up on the advanced wave. Israeli surfers Nachman Balulu and Adi Klang added an international flavour to this division and put some impressive surfing and scores on the table, alongside our home English and Welsh surfers.

Adaptive surfing event in a wave pool

A standout moment, Llywelyn ‘Sponge’ Williams set the sitting/kneel division off with a banging 360 on the wave. A regular at The Wave, Martin Pollock’s training clearly showed as he chased Sponge very closely on the heat on the left.

The Men’s and Women’s Open Divisions are a real highlight and unique aspect to our English event. These heats see competitors come together for an all-out battle to claim champion spots from cross divisions. These heats are always serious crowd pleasers and are epic to watch, whilst scores drop live as the judges decipher exactly what the board and riders are doing to maximise points.

It was great to see Go Pro supporting the contest with an award for the Hero Moment, awarded to David Lewis, a Visually Impaired athlete with a belter of a wave that he rode all the way to the bay.

A key part of driving forward adaptive surfing in England is opening up the participation pathways. We actively made a move to address this with the introduction of a Waikiki participation session and welcomed 14 surfers to The Wave, for many their first-time surfing. The progression from some of the new surfers within the hour session was phenomenal – riding waves all the way into the bay. Those with experience were straight too it cruising on the glassy lake waves – the pier and lake were alive with everyone hollering encouragement and the raw emotion as surfing yet again is in action transforming people’s lives.

Mark Bowra from The Bowra Foundation went above and beyond to support this Waikiki session with two awards for Most Determined Surfer (one on each side of the lake). Congratulations to Ayla Halewood and Danny Teare who won these and scored themselves a voucher for another surf at The Wave.

Catching up with Nick Hounsfield, Founder of The Wave and Chair of Surfing England, Nick says “Yesterday was the ‘Day of Days’! After a rollercoaster year it was incredible to see friends, athletes, volunteers, partners and sponsors all come together to create an event that epitomises “why we do, what we do”. Seeing the athletes step up another level from last year, combined with hosting the Waikiki taster session to help grow the sport, was the perfect combination of performance and purpose. The future for adaptive surfing as a sport is incredibly bright and there is a real groundswell of support behind building our healthy surfing community!”

During the event, Nick jumped in the water to support the delivery of the Waikiki session, alongside Ben Powis, CEO, of Surfing England who states “The English adaptive surfing movement is gaining real momentum. We have some of the best athletes in the world, amazing support crew and events like this to showcase the sport and to feed into the work happening internationally to see adaptive surfing recognised as Paralympic sport.”

An absolute standout mention to all the volunteers who attended and make events such as this possible. We are truly honoured to have this support in the wider surfing community. A massive thank you to all the crew who joined us and put in hours of lake time, lots of swimming, some epic bodysurfing, and to the land crew too.

child at an adaptive surfing event in a wave pool

Our further thanks to the team at Surfability UK CIC who have supported the event since its inauguration 5 years ago and bring a wealth of knowledge to the contest. Also, to The Wave Project, as many of their team of volunteers joined the day including Ian Bennett, Adaptive Lead at Wave Project.

A huge thank you to Matt Harwood, Team England Adaptive Coach, for many hours of support in the run up to the contest and who charged all Wednesday and Thursday to support the delivery of the contest.

This event was truly an exceptional event, as the contest continues to go from strength to strength. A resounding success and fantastic day that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The stoke levels were radiating at The Wave from everyone onsite, amplified by the presence of headline partners dryrobe. We cannot wait to see what the rest of 2021 brings for adaptive surfing, as we look to the Paralympics, to 2022, and beyond.

Story by Surfing England. All images by ImageCabin

wave pools and adaptive surfing


Women’s Open
1 Charlotte Banfield       
2 Natasha Davies            
3 Juliette Friedlander     
4 Katie Richards

Men’s Open
1 Adi Klang        
2 Llywelyn ‘Sponge’ Williams     
3 Pegleg Bennett            
4 Martin Pollock

1 Llywelyn ‘Sponge’ Williams     
2 Martin Pollock              
3 Isaac Heaher

1 Mark Hagger  
2 Juliette Friedlander     
3 Mark Bowra   
4 Natasha Davies

1 Adi Klang        
2 Nachman Yariv Balaulu             
3 Pegleg Bennett            
4 Louis Sutton