Nick Carroll On: Left Right Out

29 Jun 2017 1 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Dean McSporren, Photo by ABC

Dean McSporren, Photo by ABC

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL FEATURE

LEFT RIGHT OUT

Dean McSporran’s quest to represent.

It’s been a big few weeks for the International Surfing Association’s stand up paddle program.

The ISA is currently engaged in a full court press to be recognised as the global governing body of SUP. It recently took on a partnership with the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals, and is in sports mediation with the International Canoe Federation, which also wants a piece of the SUP action. This morning the ISA announced it had succeeded in getting SUP events into the Central American Games — a serious feather in the cap for the organisation’s efforts.

The goal here, as ever, is the Olympics. As the ISA’s highly energetic longtime President, Fernando Aguerre, tells us in the PR: "This news reaffirms how far we have come as a Federation in recent years, and goes to prove the work we are doing to develop the sport of Stand Up Paddle.

"Our Olympic Surfing dream became a reality last year, and now we are hopeful that with this momentum, our Olympic SUP dream can become reality as well."

But apparently in all of this, there’s no room for Dean McSporran.

Dean is a 48-year-old builder and surfer from Wollongong. Nine years ago, he lost his left forearm in an accident.

During recovery he tried to get back into surfing, even designing a paddle to fit the prosthesis, but found it highly restrictive. Just pushing off the board to get to his feet was hard. “I know Bethany Hamilton can do it, but I’m not Bethany Hamilton,” Dean told us.

Then: “I was out trying to surf with some friends, and they said, ‘Do you think you could do stand-up?’”

He got into it, found he was snapping paddles thanks to his metal left hand, and designed a special solid-rubber cushion to fit. And with a bit of help from various NSW South Coast surf businesses including Surefire Stand Up, Dean had a new lease on the surfing life.

He surfs around the Gong, Sandon, Woonona, and down at Gerroa, where he goes in Natural Necessity’s contests, and all in all he is pretty stoked. “People acknowledge me, it’s great! They say, ‘You’ve got one arm and you’re still out here, you’re doing OK’.”

One door, however, remains closed to Dean, and it’s a door whose key is held by the International Surfing Association.

Just last weekend, Surfing Australia held its second ever nudie Adaptive Surfing Titles. It’s the qualifying round for the ISA’s World Adaptive Championships. Adaptive competition is surfing’s equivalent of the Paralympics — for surfers whose physical or mental impairments limit their ability to compete at the sport’s whole-body elite level.

It’s new, it’s inclusive, and it’s a full on stoke for the people who take part.

For over a year, Dean has been trying to get a start in Adaptive surfing. But the ISA doesn’t run an Adaptive SUP division. And for a variety of reasons, it won’t let him into any other division in which he could compete. He’s not allowed to ride a wave ski, for instance, because he’s not considered impaired enough.

He’s peppered the ISA with requests, only to be told repeatedly that the ISA has no current plans for an Adaptive SUP division — though he was free to send the ISA a list of potential Adaptive SUP riders “for review”.

In other words: Adaptive surfing, yep. SUP, yes please! Adaptive SUP? Um, get back to us.

“It’s damn frustrating,” says Dean. He attended the recent Surfing Oz event, where he was able to surf in a special heat, but couldn’t win anything because, as Surfing Oz’s Chris Symington explains: “The event has to qualify people for the World Adaptives team, and the ISA hasn’t set up a division yet.”

Dean says Surfing Australia have “always been supportive”, and Chris affirms: “We’ve been on a journey with Dean from the start. We’re totally happy to create a SUP division.”

Chris suggests that part of the problem is that Adaptive surfing is young, and very much a work in progress. It’s literally being invented on the run. The numbers doubled at the Adaptive titles this year, and a women’s division was created in response.

Dean has made contact with a number of impaired SUP riders around the world, and we’re pretty sure he won’t give up on any of this. But it seems a bit less-than for an international organisation, specially one with its eyes on governing the whole sport, to leave it all up to him.

As he puts it: “I’m a one-man band and I need some help.”

We asked Alex Reynolds of the ISA to respond, but nothing as yet. Keep you posted.

See all the results from the Australian Adaptive Surf Titles

Dean competing at the Australian Adaptive Titles on the weekend.

Dean competing at the Australian Adaptive Titles on the weekend.


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