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The Inertia

Editor’s Note: This article is presented by our partners at Waiākea.

The sport of surfing is an ever-evolving beast, so there are always new frontiers to explore, new technologies to try, and new ways to get out there and have fun. That spirit of exploration goes back to Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawaiian Olympic swimmer and world-class surfer who thought surfing was such a gift he wanted to share it with the world. Since then, surfers have never stopped seeking out unexplored corners of the world, or attempting rad new things in surfboard design and human performance. That tradition continues in the realm of adaptive surfing.

AccesSurf Adaptive Surf Championships Hawaii

Whether you’re sitting or standing, the feeling of a deep bottom turn is the same. Photo: Tommy Pierucki.

AccesSurf Hawaiʻi, which has helped to pioneer the sport of competitive adaptive surfing, partnered with another innovative local company, Waiākea Hawaiian Volcanic Water, to put on the Hawaiʻi Adaptive Surf Championships this summer on the island of Oahu. The event, which ran from June 7-11 at Queens Beach in Waikiki, is the first pro event on the all-new Association of Adaptive Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour.

This year, the tour will also hit Oceanside, California for the fifth annual US Open Adaptive Surfing Championships September 8-11, so if you’re in the area, be sure to get down there to witness the boundaries being pushed in the realm of adaptive surfing.

Mark Mono Stewart Adaptive Surf Championships Hawai'i

Mark Mono Stewart gets stoked. Photo: Tommy Pierucki.

Accessurf is a local non-profit in Hawaiʻi that provides free programs for anyone with a disability to help them get in the water and access surfing and ocean sports. Founded in 2006 by Rich Julian and Mark Marble, the past 15 years have seen AccesSurf grow from humble beginnings of a few volunteers and a whole lot of duct tape to a pioneering organization in the adaptive surfing space.

Adaptive surfers with Waiakea and AccesSurf

Wind and waves aligned for picture-perfect conditions at the Hawaiʻi Adaptive Surf Championships. Photo: Tommy Pierucki.

Rich Julian was a lifelong surfer until he was hit by a drunk driver on the coastal highway of Oahu. The accident not only took away the use of his legs, but cut off his access to the beach and to surfing. Through co-founding AccesSurf, he has found a way to get himself back in the water and help others do the same.

“It’s beautiful that this is happening here under the Duke statue, and really cool to see it spread around the world,” Julian says. “Hawaiʻi gets to see all of these great adaptive people here, coming from all over the world to be here and compete. We have over 100 athletes from 17 countries this year. We’re just trying to provide a professional platform for adaptive athletes to show their love for the ocean.”

Head dip at the Hawai'i Adaptive Surf Championships with Waiakea and AccesSurf

Style points for the head dip. Photo: Tommy Pierucki.

“It’s important for AccesSurf that the partners that we work with have similar values around sustainability, and Aloha, and the Aina,” says Cara Short, executive director of AccesSurf. “Waiākea is the perfect example of the people that we get to work with who have similar values that help us to continue to be stewards of the ocean and the beach.”

Waiākea is also the perfect example of a Hawaiian company that uses its platform and resources to uplift disadvantaged communities, both on the Hawaiian Islands and across the world. For every case of water sold, a month of clean water is provided to communities in Malawi, Africa through the Pump Aid nonprofit organization. And through their Kōkua Initiative, Waiākea is working to support the most vulnerable communities in Hawaiʻi with food and resource drives, donations, and more.

Faith Lennox at AccesSurf Hawai'i championships

Faith Lennox laid down a strong performance on Finals Day. Photo: Tommy Pierucki.

That’s not to mention all of their work in sustainability, from introducing the first 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastic water bottle in the U.S. market to a refillable aluminum bottle which launched in 2021 in partnership with Coco Ho.

“The primary purpose of the Kōkua Initiative is to serve the most vulnerable in our community,” says Geoli Ng, director of the Kōkua Initiative at Waiākea. “I feel so blessed to be a part of the work that’s going on here with the Kōkua Initiative and the work that we’re doing with AccesSurf.”


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