Dorset Freemason Mark Hagger of London Haven Lodge competed at the World Para Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach, Surf City in California. The competition ran from the 5th to the 11th of November, with 27 countries and the very best adaptive surfers from around the globe taking part in the annual event.
The Championship enjoyed 25-degree heat and 6-8 foot surf every day of the competition, where 124 surfers born with conditions such as visibility issues, missing limbs, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, life-changing injuries or debilitating diseases participated. All surfers are self-funded, adding to the pressure of performing to the best of their ability and making it count for their country.
Before Mark was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he was active in football, rugby, golf and motorbikes. He thought at the time it was the end of his sporting life. MS slowly took those sports away from him, so to be able to surf again gave him the hunger to push himself and realise that it was not the end of the world. One can adapt to anything with the support of friends and family. Representing his country in surfing is a very proud moment in Mark's life.
Mark said, "It is scary when you can't rely on your body to get yourself out of trouble. You put your faith in your teammates to get to you before you drown! Not one person backed down from the surf. They faced their fears head-on!"
Mark, who lives in Bournemouth, works for Bournemouth and Poole College in the Electrical Apprenticeship Team. Before that, he was a lecturer in construction for seven years. His Lodge in Bournemouth has been closely following his progress, and he is looking forward to seeing his fellow Brothers and telling them about his recent adventures. He said that it was great to have the support of the Dorset Freemasons.
The England Team took one gold medal, two silvers and a world ranking of 4th overall. Beating big hitters like Australia, Hawaii and South Africa, which is not bad for a team that surfs cold UK waves most of the year!
Mark had the privilege of being the England Team Captain and achieving the highest-ever position for any Surfing England Team. This places them in good stead for the Para Olympics in 2028, hopefully, when they will become 'Surfing Great Britain'. Along with other home nations, this will give them an even stronger team to take on the rest of the world!