Mono Gears Up for Australian Championships
Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart was only an occasional surfer until, at the age of 16, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
The aggressive bone cancer took his leg and threatened his life.
“They didn’t tell me but they told my parents to not look beyond a couple of years,” he said.
“My parents didn’t tell me that until I was in my twenties … my mum pulled me aside and said ‘I need to tell you something’ and I never spoke to her for a long time after that because I was really angry no-one had told me.
“In hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened and I’m forever grateful to Mum and Dad for not telling me that.”
After two years of chemotherapy, Mono (as he prefers to be known) found a new lease on life in the ocean.
“I surfed when I had two legs, but I wasn’t a full-on surfer,” he said.
“When I lost my leg, for some reason, the ocean just beckoned.”
“That’s the best thing about surfing, you get in the water, whether you’ve got one leg, whether you’re a paraplegic, whatever, it’s a real equalizer,” he said.
By the mid-1980s Mono was a State kneeboard champion, but it wasn’t until last year that he got the chance to compete against other athletes facing similar physical challenges.
He returned from the first World Adaptive Surfing Championships in the US with a gold medal.
“When I first heard about the world titles coming up I was ecstatic,” he said.
“To bring home a world title was a dream come true.
“And it was so good to see so many adaptive surfers in one spot and to hear their stories … every day it brought a tear to your eye.
“Some of these people have been through hell and back and yet they still love the ocean.”
“There are some amazing people around the world who have been through so much and life has been extremely tough, and me having one leg is nothing compared to some of these people and their courage and enthusiasm.”
The inaugural Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles will be held at Casuarina on the New South Wales far north coast next week.
Mono will compete, but said a gold medal was not his focus.
“I’ve won and achieved what I wanted to achieve, so just going there and getting more people involved is more important to me now,” he said.
“At this point in time it’s just about getting adaptive surfing out there and letting people know if you have a disability there are options for you and we’ll get you in the water.
“We’ll get you surfing again.”
THE LEGEND TEAM:
Samantha Turnbull and Bruce MacKenzie