We all imagine ourselves as professional surfers. Out in the water with the jersey on, just you and the other competitors fighting for the best waves and trying to surf every last corner to the shore, hoping for the ten-point ride.
With time ticking away, you scratch into every wave the ocean offers you, utilizing your surroundings to keep you in position and ready for the next one.
Now imagine that experience without your sense of sight.
Team USA Adaptive Surfer Scott Leason, 60, is doing exactly that, accomplishing all our dreams with total blindness.
“I rely on all verbal commands from Coach Pat, I have to put total trust in him while we’re out in the water,” Leason explained.
After finding himself on the wrong end of a 9mm handgun while working the graveyard shift at a convenience store at the age of 37, Leason was shot in the head and lost his sight completely.
With the support of family, friends and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, within a few years Leason was back to the active lifestyle he had lived, surfing, waterskiing, and now even wakeboarding.
Paving the way for surfers like himself, Leason surfed in the stand up division along with other surfers who did not have a visual impairment at the inaugural 2015 ISA WASC.
Recognizing the need for a Visually Impaired division all their own, the ISA re-evaluated their format and the AS-VI division was born. This year at the 2016 Stance ISA WASC, Leason joins seven other visually-impaired surfers to compete in their very own division.
Coach Pat Weber from San Diego Surfing Academy, is Leason’s support while in the water, standing in the waves and telling him when exactly to pop up.
“There was zero pressure once we got in the water. The pressure was in the preparation, all the hard work was done and this was the time for us to have fun,” Weber said.
Although Leason placed third in his heat today, he says he is more excited about the progress made within the adaptive community and the chance to compete with an international group of surfers like himself.
Adaptive surfer from Spain, Aitor Francesena was the winner of the first AS-VI heat. Competing against Leason, Lucas Retamales from team Chile and Gwendal Du Fretay from team France.
Coming close to a ten-point ride, Francesena found a nice right corner, carving his way towards the beach and earning a 9.43. With a commanding lead, he finished the heat with a total two-wave score of 18.16.
12-year-old Erynn Geddie paddled out in the second AS-VI heat. Geddie won the South African Adaptive Surfing Championship in the Blind division to earn his spot to compete on the national team and is the youngest competitor in the AS-VI divison this weekend.
Other standout surfers were 11-year-old young guns Davi Texeira from Brazil and Freddy Marimon from Colombia who surfed against each other in heat 3 of the AS-5 Assist division, sparking a friendly rivalry as they traded waves on their high performance shortboards.
Luckily, no one loses in Round 1 and tomorrow is another chance for everybody to make up needed points to bring home a medal and represent their home nation.