Adaptive surfers find clean waves, fun in final tune-up

Brock JohnsonLocal adaptive surfers spent their final practice day surfing the waves of Oceanside, California today in preparation for tomorrow’s Surfing America, US Surfing Championships.

Brock Johnson, the current ESA East Coast Champion, Veronica Tario, the current ASF East Coast Champion, Conway native Ernie Johnson, and Socastee High School rising junior Terrel Rawson spent the day on the beach at the north jetty of Oceanside Harbor getting acclimated to the contest environment.

After a tough day of surfing on Monday in La Jolla, the crew was excited to roll up to clean 6-8 foot faced waves. Rawson, who had chosen not to surf on Monday, was the first in the water, riding tandem. Thirty minutes later, Rawson emerged with a smile and a sigh of relief that conditions were turning favorable for the competition.

Myrtle Beach’s Veronica Tario fought through the final effects of an illness to paddle out into the cold water waves. Riding several waves to the beach from more than 100 yards outside, Tario giggled with excitement as she was hoisted back into the beach wheelchair after her session.

Brock Johnson put on the performance of the day. After losing the power of his first wave of the day, Johnson was caught alone outside when a large swell formed behind him. The quadriplegic began paddling and successfully caught the wave on his own, for the first time since his injury 6 years ago. Riding all the way to the beach before rolling off, Johnson stuck both arms up in the air in celebration as team members from the Adaptive Surf Project cheered the accomplishment. A 20 minutes session continued for Johnson as he weaved and carved up the waves of the harbor.

Conway native Ernie Johnson made the decision to watch from the beach, saving his energy for the competition tomorrow. Johnson broke his nose on a wave yesterday in his first surf session in California.

All four competitors, along with 14 volunteers, family members, and Adaptive Surf Project board members will make the journey back to Oceanside early tomorrow morning. Heat sheets are set for the adaptive assist division with Brock Johnson and Ernie Johnson surfing at 12:30pm against two other competitors. Tario will surf in the 12:55 heat. The top two surfers from each heat will advance to the finals at 2:25pm. Rawson will surf in the adaptive prone division at 11:40am.

Read more about their journey here, and here.
Photo by Luke Sharp

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