The World Para Surfing Championship began Wednesday in La Jolla, with more than 140 paraplegic athletes competing in the five-day tournament.
The event, the world's largest contest for surfers with physical challenges will have teams representing 22 countries in the third edition of the competition. Athletes with physical challenges ranging from shark attack amputees to blind surfers will gather at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores to compete.
Much like the Olympics, athletes will wave their nation's flag as they march toward the ceremony stage. Athletes will participate in a "' Sands of the World Ceremony' combining sand from each of their countries into a single container to represent the peaceful gathering of nations through adaptive surfing,'' the event promoters said.
Army veteran Jose Martinez will be one of the surfers competing along with a certified therapy dog and local surfer Ricochet.
On March 3, 2012, Martinez -- serving in Afghanistan -- stepped on a roadside bomb meant for a vehicle. The blast immediately threw him in the air and instantly amputated both his legs, right arm, a finger on his left hand and caused damage to his internal organs. He awoke from a coma 10 days later.
In his years of recovery, he was introduced to surfing while undergoing rehabilitation at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He recently became a member of Team USA's Adaptive Surfing team.
Martinez and surfing dog Ricochet have also joined forces to battle the suicide epidemic among veterans through his inspirational speaking and Ricochet's healing abilities.
"They also catch waves together to raise awareness of the healing
power of the ocean and the healing power of a dog,'' a news release said.
Seven soldiers from his former unit will be reunited with Martinez on the beach as he prepares for the competition.
The opening ceremony begins Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. with the contest following at 1 p.m. The competition continues through Sunday, March 15.