World Adaptive Surfing Championships gives blind surfer hope for 2024 Paralympics

LA JOLLA, Calif. – Adaptive blind surfer Scott Leason recounted the story of a convenience store robbery and shooting 24 years ago that left him blind.

"Entered the left temple, exited the other side. They had to remove both my eyes and I lost my smell. It missed my brain, but everybody questions that for some reason," Leason said.

It didn't take away Leason's passion to surf. Instead, he became an adaptive surfing pioneer and one of the first blind surfers.

This weekend, Leason competed with more than 100 other athletes from 26 countries at the World Adaptive Surfing Championships in La Jolla.

Leason's unique goal and dream is to compete in the surfing division of the paralympics, a sport that doesn't yet exist.

"My mantra is, never lose sight of your goals and dreams," Leason said. "I'll be 68 years old. I don't know if they have an age limit for Olympics but we'll see if I'm still surfing at 68."

"I think someone with a disability is judged on what they can't do, whereas in an able-bodied world you're judged on what you can do," said Duane Kale, Vice President of the Paralympic Committee.

At the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, there are no can'ts -- only cans.

"We believe very strongly that surfing has a therapeutic effect," said Robert Fasulo of the International Surfing Association. "It's something that is different in the air. The people, the athletes -- there's a different sense of community outside the water. Many people take for granted that because we are in the Olympics, that also parasurfing would be included in the Paralympic games. But it's actually two completely separate organizations."

Surfing was just added to the 2020 Olympics in Japan, but the soonest that surfing could be in the Paralympics would be in Paris in 2024.