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Adaptive surfing involves the surfer paddling out and riding a wave towards the shore. Adaptive surfing can occur wherever there are suitable waves, this is mainly in the ocean; however, surfing can also be done in lakes and rivers or through artificial waves. Adaptive surfing requires a surfboard to which modifications may be made so that it can be properly used by the surfer. 

Adaptive surfers compete in six sport classes: Surfers who ride waves in a standing or kneeling position divided by upper or lower body impairments, surfers who ride waves in a seated position, surfing in a prone position, surfing in any non-standing position with assistance to paddle into waves and while in the water, and surfers who have a visual impairment.


The International Surfing Association governs the sport world-wide and has taken an active role in the development of adaptive surfing. Adaptive surfing is recognised from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Since its inauguration as part of the ISA in 2015, adaptive surfing has been steadily growing. Highlight of the surfing calendar are the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships where the world’s best adaptive surfers gather.

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