Grabbing a surfboard and riding the waves was key to Llywelyn Williams’ recovery after losing her leg in an accident.
Now the 26-year-old hopes to encourage more people of all abilities to try the sport, by hosting the Welsh Adaptive Surfing Championships in July.
The event at Adventure Park Snowdonia in Conwy promises plenty of thrills, spills and excitement, with competitors coming from as far away as Hawaii, South Africa and California to take part.
The artificial lagoon at the former aluminum site of Dolgarrog has become the first indoor venue in the world to host an adaptive surfing championship in 2019. After a hiatus during the pandemic, adaptive surfing athletes around the world are keen to see it return in North Wales. .
Surfers will compete in nine different categories catering to a range of different abilities.
“Adventure Parc is the perfect venue for this competition,” explained Llywelyn. “It has fantastic man-made waves that are consistent and reliable and it offers great facilities for athletes and spectators, including good food and wheelchair-friendly accommodation modules.”
Entry is free to attend the event and Llywelyn hopes visitors will take advantage of the great views around the lagoon to get a closer look at the sport.
Llywelyn’s passion for the sport began when he started surfing aged 12 in Porth Ceiriad and Porth Neigwl, near his home in Abersoch.
He showed promise and competed locally, but a few years later a car accident nearly dashed his dreams of surfing professionally.
While riding his skateboard home, he was hit by a car and suffered life-threatening injuries, including dislocation of both hips, head injury, fractured femur, broken pelvis, punctured lung , a perforated intestine and a split liver.
Llywelyn spent several weeks at the Royal Liverpool Hospital where he was put in an induced coma.
Doctors desperately tried to save his leg but, two weeks after the accident, Llywelyn’s family learned that the limb had become badly infected and would have to be amputated to save his life.
Against all odds, Llywelyn overcame her injuries. He accepted the loss of his leg but dismissed the idea of giving up hope.
Due to his tenacious spirit, he was back in the water less than a year after the accident.
“My buddies carried me up the stairs,” Llywelyn recalled.
“I had a bodyboard and they were tossing me into the waves. I still had my old wetsuit back then – with both legs – so one of them was swinging in the water.
“When the first wave hit me and I came back up, I felt revived and I felt ‘wow! This is magic’. Surfing is the best.
“When I’m in the water on my surfboard, nothing else matters. It’s a fantastic sport for people of all skill levels.
Llywelyn discovered adaptive surfing and started competing again, this time in the kneeling category, winning gold at the English Adaptive Championships in 2018 and more recently representing Wales at the Adaptive World Championships. International Surfing Association in California.
It was competing there that he raised the flag for Adventure Park Snowdonia as a suitable venue and sparked more interest in the surf scene in Wales.
He is now busy organizing what he hopes will be an inspiring and exciting competition at the Adventure Resort on July 1 and 2.
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.
Each of the surfers participating in this year’s championships has overcome significant personal challenges to compete at such a high level.
“Interest in adaptive surfing has grown so much,” added Llywelyn.
“When I first competed in the world championships in 2015, there were only 60 entries. Now it’s closer to 100 and the standard is so high.
Adaptive surfing will feature at the 2028 Paralympic Games for the first time. July’s championship will feature a number of hopeful contenders, including Llywelyn.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia general manager Andy Ainscough said: “Llywelyn is a great guy and an even better athlete, his courage and determination to come back from what he has is admirable.
“On the biggest days on the beaches near Abersoch, Llywelyn tackles the biggest and scariest waves. He is a brilliant ambassador for the sport of surfing.
“We are really delighted to have the Adapted Championship back on the Park after the recent pandemic shut it down for two years and it is shaping up to be a fantastic event for competitors and spectators alike.”
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