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Para surfing athletes from around the world competing in Pismo Beach this week

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Angel Russell
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The 2021 ISA World Para Surfing Championship is being held in Pismo Beach.

For the first time, Pismo Beach is hosting the world's largest para surfing championship with more than 300 athletes from all around the world competing this week.

“What makes this unique is that this is a para championship," said Anthony Bustamante with AMP Surf. "They are paraplegics and have different abilities. So there are some that are sitting, some that are able to stand and they come from all over the country.”

AMP Surf is an organization that helps rehabilitate people who have physical disabilities by teaching them to hit the waves.

“The ocean doesn’t discriminate, it welcomes everybody with any ability, or any disabilities," Bustamante said. "It just brings hope back to their lives.”

Shawn Lewis is competing from Hawaii.

“Over in Hawaii they call me wāwae nui," Lewis said. "That means Big Foot. Wāwae is foot, Nui is big.”

Lewis, or Big Foot, got into adaptive surfing a couple years ago after he lost his leg because of a car accident.

“Everybody goes, ‘How can you surf but you can’t walk?’ Well, I started surfing on one leg and balancing on one leg,” Lewis said.

Lewis said surfing got him out of a bad place mentally after his accident. He says although it's a competition, all the athletes stick together as a family.

“You’ll see people lending each other boards or leashes, doing whatever we can to help each other out," Lewis said. "We are all pretty much winners here, because we are here.”

The competition goes through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

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