Big Swell Delivers Exciting Action on Day 3 of the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Championship

November 8th, 2023

Nagisa Ikegami (JPN) makes a mark in her international debut

Returning champion Emma Dieters sets the standard for Team Australia

Near perfection for Jonathan Arias, El Salvador’s para surfing pioneer


Huntington Beach, California – November 8, 2023

A surprise increase in swell introduced an exciting element to day three of the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Championship (WPSC). The world’s best para surfers took the challenge head-on, posting large numbers in the sizable four-to-six foot surf.

Women’s action was front and center as Round 1 in each of the three women’s Stand classifications was run, along with Prone 1 and Kneel. Round 2 in men’s Stand 2 & 3, Prone 1, and Kneel rounded out the day.

Paloma Onate, Team Spain. Photo: Jersson Barboza

Japan’s newest team member, Nagisa Ikegami (JPN), provided one of the highlights of the event in Women’s Stand 3. Coming up against three-time World Champion Liv Stone (USA), Ikegami found two solid scores, a 7.67 and a 6.00, to earn a 13.67 heat total, the highest of the day for the women’s field. Ikegami was undaunted by her fellow competitors, solely focused on her own performance and enjoying her first taste of international para surfing competition.

“I had no idea I was surfing against a World Champion,” Ikegami said. “I didn’t think about that at all. It was all up to me and my own challenge of what I could achieve. Japan has a more reserved culture. Here it’s a lot more warm, a lot more friendly and a lot more free feeling. I love the mix of the cultures and the color that contrast brings.”

Nagisa Ikegami, Team Japan. Photo: Sean Evans

Returning gold medalists María Martín-Granizo (ESP), Emma Dieters (AUS), and Victoria Feige (CAN) each earned heat wins as they seek to add to their medal counts. Solid scores from Audrey Pascaul (ESP) and Vera Quaresma (BRA) will no doubt push Feige’s performance as she seeks to maintain her dominance of the Women’s Kneel classification. The Canadian is pursuing her fifth gold medal and has yet to lose since her debut in 2018.

Dieters dropped into one of the biggest waves of the day to mark her debut in the Prone 1 classification. After winning gold in Prone 2 in 2022, her first year of para surfing competition, the 41-year-old is happy to be back representing her nation.

“It’s cool to come back with the Australian team and try and get that vibe going again that we had last year,” Dieters said. “We all did really, really well for Australia, so hopefully we can replicate that again this year.”

The men’s leaderboards established in the first two days of competition didn’t see too much of a shakeup today. The completion of Round 2 in multiple classifications did mean that many eliminations took place, including the shock loss of three-time gold medalist Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart.

Rafael Lueders (BRA), Jean Paul Veaudry (RSA) and Kenjiro Ito (JPN) each improved their totals in Stand 2, as did Llywelyn ‘Sponge’ Williams (WAL), who reclaimed the lead in Men’s Kneel from Ibon Oregi (ESP). Nicolas Gallegos (ARG) and Marcos Tapia (ESP) also found great scores to secure progression in Prone 1.

Jonathan Arias, Team El Salvador. Photo: Sean Evans

Barely surviving after being shot through the spine at the age of 13, Jonathan Arias (ESA) was put in a wheelchair and had to spend two years regaining the use of his arms. Prior to taking up surfing three years ago, the 26-year-old had never learned to swim. After training hard and drawing inspiration from previous champions, Arias, who competes in the unassisted Prone 1 classification, earned the highest single wave score of the event today, a near-perfect 9.83.

“I was right next to the competitor from Brazil and he looked like he was going to take off,” Arias said. “At the final moment he looked reluctant. My coach had told me to go for a big one and I knew this was my opportunity, so I took it and was able to get a couple good hits. I did what I could, everything I know.”

Competition will continue tomorrow at Southside Huntington Beach Pier at 7:00am PST.

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