Hunter Hero: Sharing the ocean and a love of surfing’s vibe – Jade “Red” Wheatley

Jade “Red” Wheatley, Newcastleadaptive surfer.Jade Wheatley is a surfer, a coal miner and an advocate.
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HELPING: Jade “Red” Wheatley has been helping progress adaptive surfing. He hopes to soon hold an adaptive surf tournament in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

At age 36, he’s powering through life.Helping thecommunity too.

But there’s something unique about him…

He’smissing both his legs from below the knee.

Lost them in a construction accident when he was just19.Although it doesn’t stop him doing what he wants to do.

For example, for the past three years he’s competed in the World Adaptive Surfing Championship, held each year inSouthern California.

He also once walked from Newcastle to Manly, to help raise money for peopleto attend those championships.

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Double-amputee surfer Red Wheatley’s road to California begins at NobbysGift of legs makes surfer feel like a ‘new me’ on landRed ‘NoLegs’ dream: competing at world’s first adaptive surfing competitionBut closer to home, he helps run the annualAmputee Surf Day, which washeld at Nobbys beach last week.

“A friend of mine started it,” Mr Wheatleysaid.“She’s a prosthetist at a limb centre I go to and she liked surfing, got involved and kicked it off.

“Ever since I’ve been involved withOssur (prosthetic company) and organising a yearly event for people to goandenjoy themselves.

“It’s definitely growing and creating an attraction here in Newcastle.”

There’s a mixture of people at the event, with both juniors and seniors taking part.

Wheatley says he loves being able to give back and letting people get a taste of the surf. One man, Scott Edgar –a bi-lateral amputee – was a personal highlight onthe recent day at Nobbys beach.

“There’s people there who want to come and enjoy something different, or there’s people who get in the waterquite a bit,” Wheatleysaid.

“Scott, he hadn’t touched the salt water in 20 years. It was pretty ‘narly’, I think he shed a bit of a tear.

“It’s really good to see someone like him giving it a go.That’s what the day is all about, everyone enjoying themselves.

“Getting to feelwhat I feel:a love of the ocean and the vibe you get from it.”

Elaborating on what it’s like for someone like Scott to get back inthe water, Wheatley gives a uniqueinsight.

“He’s a bi-lateral amputee;one below the knee and one above the knee,” he said.

“So you can imagine how tough it would have been, but I talked him through it.

“After 17 years of surfing without legs, I kind of coached him through the process.

“One thing I said was ‘you’re literally buoyant’, because you’re missing that dead weight of your legs down below. If you’ve got lungs full of air, you actually pop straight back up.

“And he came in and said: ‘you know, you’re right’…I think he was a bit nervous. But he came in and said: ‘I pop straight back up without even trying’.

“To sit back and watch them, with all the smiles on their faces.

“For everyone involved, it’s a good vibe.”

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