PARA SURF –
The 2021 ISA Parasurf World Championship took place in Pismo Beach, California from December 6-11, with Matt Formston from Wamberal and Jack Jackson from Umina, both competing with the Australian team “Irukandjis”.
Despite scoring the two best waves of all competition in the Men Vision Impaired 2 (VI 2) category, a fourth place finish was rewarded in Formston after a disappointing final, with Jackson finishing behind him in fifth.
Overall, the Irukandjis placed sixth out of 24 countries, with the victory going to the host American team, Spain in second, then Brazil, Costa Rica and Hawaii, then England in seventh.
With the competition centered below the long pier at Pismo Beach, the surf remained relatively consistent throughout the week, breaking slightly in either direction and under four feet for non-challenging conditions.
Two round three heats in Category VI 2 took place on Wednesday and Friday last week, with four seedings in Saturday’s final determined by each competitor’s best two scores in the two heats.
In the first round, Jackson put in his best performance to score his two highest waves for a combined score of 12.94, finishing second to eventual silver medalist Miguel Flavio of Brazil.
The clumsy footer showed his favor for his right side, combining maneuvers with growing confidence, on more than one occasion heading delicately under the pier.
“I was just putting the left in there, you know, milking it until I couldn’t take it anymore, threading the needle through the pier,” Jackson told the commentator. Ben Wei, filling the Californian with a healthy slice of Australian jargon.
“So that tear between the pier helps a lot to get out, makes paddling fast without a duck dive, that’s pretty good aye?”
Formston raced into the next round, scoring her second-best wave of the competition on her forehand, finding soft curved lines along two corners for a score of 8.83.
At the end of the day, the two Australians were in the top four of nine, hoping to maintain their positioning with another strong performance in the second round.
On Friday, Formston and Jackson faced off, with the former winning with a new high score and the latter underperforming to drop into the top four.
Despite scoring a 9.00, Formston’s second heat could have been a perfect 10.00 had it not been for one final slide at the top of the wave.
Again on his forehand, Formston rode the wave from trough to lip for three laps, ending with an off-balance float maneuver that tipped him over in the whitewater – nonetheless securing him the highest score of 17.83 on both laps.
In the final the next day, that great form seemed to be lacking in Formston’s performance, where falling behind in the scoring saw him stay in fourth place.
Costa Rican Roy Calderon walked away with the win, with Flavio second and Hawaiian Aaron Paulk third.
Throughout the day of the finals, five other Australians battled it out for a chance at gold, with each of them ending up on the podium.
Jocelyn Neumuller finished first in the Women Prone 2 final, with Samantha Bloom behind her in third.
Mark Stewart also came in first at Men Kneel, while Kirk Watson and Sarah Jane Gibson placed second at Men VI 1 and Women VI 2.
A copper fourth place should be enough for three-time parasurf world champion Matt Formston.
At just 19 years old, Jack Jackson will take a lot from his opening bout in world competitive parasurfing and will surely be working towards a return to the championship next year.
In the meantime, the veteran-apprentice duo can focus their attention on a documentary film project that focuses on big-wave surfing for the visually impaired.
With the conclusion of Pismo Beach, the two Coasties set out to chase big waves in Fiji and Indonesia – “loading the big waves on the coral” as Matt puts it.
The film, titled ‘The Blind Sea’, is being made by Australian film collective Brick Studios and will be in production worldwide over the next 12 months.