A shoulder-crippled surfing pioneer has made an emotional return to North Wales.
Spike Kane learned to ride the waves off Anglesey before moving to the West Coast of the United States where a horrific road accident left him with life-changing injuries.
He found his specially adapted surfboard at Adventure Parc Snowdonia in Dolgarrog three years after surfing for the first time in its artificial wave lagoon, the first in the world when it opened in 2015.
Spike, a Scouser who now lives in Seattle, was back for the two-day Welsh Adaptive Surfing Championships to show that Conwy can rival California for surfing and that disabilities are no barrier to competitive sport.
He was among 20 competitors, including from the United States, France, Israel and some local talent, and finished first in the sit-up category and third in the recumbent surfing category.
The 59-year-old said: “I had a competition here and thought I’d be back in a few months so I left it here, but it’s been three years since I got it. last seen.Glad it was well taken care of.
Spike, from Bootle, Liverpool, started surfing over 40 years ago and regularly traveled to Rhosneigr on Anglesey to ride the waves. He worked as an outdoor activity coach teaching others to surf, sail and kayak.
After traveling to the United States, he “falls in love with the place” and decides to live there permanently.
He said: ‘I met someone, got married and lived there full time. I live in Seattle now, but it’s three hours from the nearest waves, so I spend a lot of time in California surfing the waves.
Spike’s life took a dramatic turn in 2005 when he was riding his motorcycle in Seattle and was hit by another vehicle that ran a red light.
He suffered a broken spine and is paralyzed from the armpits and spent weeks in hospital, but that wasn’t going to stop him.
“I was aware of adaptive surfing and had taken people with disabilities to surf in Liverpool so I knew the resources available and that the doors weren’t closing on me.
“I’ve always been active and being able to keep surfing meant the world to me,” he said.
Her constant companion is her service dog, Buttons. The poodle is named after Hawaiian surfer Montgomery Kaluhiokalani whose nickname was Buttons.
“He was an innovator in modern surfing maneuvers and was known for his switch foot surfing and for performing the first 360 degree turn in a major motion picture. Surfer Magazine called him one of the most influential surfers in all the time.
“He also had a huge afro and Buttons has a similar hairstyle,” Spike said.
Spike can’t wait to see adaptive surfing become a Paralympic sport.
“We are aiming for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. We hope that if it is not a competitive sport at the Games, it will be an exhibition event. The standards are high and we hope the Games will help raise the standards even higher,” he added.
The man-made lagoon on the former aluminum smelter was the world’s first indoor venue to host an adaptive surfing championship event three years ago and organizers Adventure Parc Snowdonia have been keen to bring adaptive surfers back – it’s is for those with additional needs or challenges – and a big hit with residents.
The event includes nine different categories of surfers without limbs, paralyzed and prone surfers and those who need assistance on the wave and caught at the other end with two categories for disabled surfers.
The driving force behind the event was Llywelyn Williams, 27, from Abersoch, whose own dreams of becoming a competitive surfer began at the beaches of Porth Ceiriad and Porth Neigwl in Gwynedd. said surfers are competing
Those dreams were shattered by a horrific accident at the age of 11 that cost him a leg, but continuing his sport was just another challenge and he was back in the water in no time. ‘a year.
“I started competing soon after and have traveled all over the world,” he said and since then won gold at the 2018 Adaptive England Championships in the kneeling category and recently represented Wales at the International Surfing Association Adaptive World Championships in California.
He added: “At the US Open Championships I wrote on a piece of paper asking if anyone would like to take part in a Welsh Championship and over 40 people said they would like to come.
“I set about organizing it and we had a very successful event here in Dolgarrog three years ago but then Covid came and stopped everything and this year we are back and there are 20 athletes here who participate in the championships.
“I was a little stressed before the start of the event, but with everything going on, I’m as happy as can be,” he said.
In the event, Llywelyn rose to the occasion and came away with a victory in the kneeling category.
Known as “Sponge” to his friends in the surfing world, Llywelyn said he was named after the cartoon character SpongeBob. “I had a hole in my teeth when I was younger,” he said.
He will return to California later this year for the US Open, but before that he will travel to Spain and Bristol for the England Championships in July at an inland wave venue.
Swim lifeguard Isaac Heaher, from Swansea, started surfing three years ago after visiting Surfability on the Gower Peninsula.
A keen swimmer, Isaac was born without a femur but didn’t let his disability keep him out of the water and he competed in the UK National Championships.
“I went to Caswell Bay three years ago and started surfing and loved it,” he said.
The renowned facility was established nine years ago and initially stored all of its equipment in a former bus shelter.
It became even better known after the BBC DIY SOS program team carried out a major construction on the site, creating a brand new facility for disabled surfers and others.
He said: “I learned to surf before the Big Build and since then the center has exploded and become really, really popular,” said Isaac, who has visited Adventure Park Snowdonia’s wave pool several times. .
“It’s a great place to compete or just surf. The waves are really good and the facilities are first class. It’s more like the sea than other similar centers,” he said.
Swansea Secondary School Teaching Assistant Isaac said he loves the competition and this time came fourth in the kneeling category.
“I’m really grateful to the school authorities for giving me this free time,” he said.
Another competitor, Tash Davies, 31, from Bournemouth, competed in the lay assist category where the surfer is assisted into the water and pushed into the wave and another crew awaits her at the end of her run.
Tash, who suffered from weakness in her arms, started surfing three years ago after being invited to an event in Newquay, Cornwall.
She said: “I looked at the others and it looked good to me, so I went home and started training. I went into the water with a surfboard and loved it.
“I’ve been disabled since I was 13 and love kayaking, but surfing is a different challenge that I enjoy taking on.”
Iwan Phillips, Marketing Director of Adventure Parc Snowdonia, said: “It is a privilege to welcome the adaptive surfers back to Snowdonia, their incredible spirit and camaraderie bring out the best in surfing and how the sport really brings people together for all the right reasons.
“For us, hosting this event showcases the benefits of the controlled environment we have with our facility, as well as our ambition to make surfing and outdoor activities accessible and inclusive for people of all abilities. or confidence levels.”
The main event sponsor is The Mailing Room, a Bury-based family business with a focus on adaptive surfing. AmpSurf, an organization set up to inspire and rehabilitate people with disabilities, and Llywelyn’s family business, Hopalong Clothing, are also supporting the event.