Para surfing may not yet be an official part of the Paralympic program, but it has been slowly gaining recognition since its debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. With dreams of showcasing their skills on the world stage at the 2028 Los Angeles Games, South African para surfers Raemondo Lessing and Thando Ngcikwe are determined to ride the waves of resilience to success.
At 16 years old, Lessing and Ngcikwe have already overcome significant challenges. Both young men lost their limbs at an early age due to meningitis and are double amputees. However, their disabilities have not stopped them from pursuing their dreams of becoming top para surfers.
Finding a Passion for Surfing
Lessing and Ngcikwe discovered their passion for surfing during a “surf therapy” session organized by South African surfing champion and coach Roxy Davis in 2021. The experience was transformative for both young men, who found solace and empowerment in the sport.
Achieving Commendable Results
Lessing and Ngcikwe’s remarkable progress in the sport has been nothing short of impressive. In just two years, they have achieved commendable national results, with Lessing earning a spot on the national team. Their accomplishments demonstrate the incredible potential of para surfing as both a sport and a therapeutic activity.
The Power of Surfing
For Lessing, surfing provides a sanctuary where stress dissipates and negative thoughts are left behind. He feels like he is in his own zone and uses his torso to maneuver the board with the assistance of two helpers. Similarly, Ngcikwe believes that surfing has not only helped him overcome his physical challenges but also allowed him to escape the harsh realities of life in Khayelitsha and given him a sense of purpose.
The Importance of Representation
Coach Davis firmly believes that para athletes deserve representation in the Paralympics. As Lessing and Ngcikwe prepare to compete in the first stage of the new Global Para Surf League event in Muizenberg, Cape Town, their journey serves as a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and the human spirit.
A Lasting Impact
Regardless of whether para surfing becomes an official part of the Paralympic program, Lessing and Ngcikwe’s unwavering commitment to their sport is a shining example of the human spirit’s capacity to overcome adversity. Their journey serves as an inspiration to others facing similar challenges and highlights the importance of providing opportunities and support for individuals with disabilities to engage in sports and other activities that can significantly improve their physical, emotional, and social well-being.
The inclusion of para surfing in the Paralympics would not only elevate the sport but also provide a platform for these incredible athletes to break stereotypes, showcase their talents, and inspire countless others. As the world continues to witness the growth and development of para surfing, it is crucial that the sport is given the recognition it deserves, ultimately paving the way for its inclusion in future Paralympic Games.