Hunter Hero: Sharing the ocean and a love of surfing’s vibe - Jade "Red" Wheatley

Jade "Red" Wheatley, Newcastle adaptive surfer. 

Jade Wheatley is a surfer, a coal miner and an advocate. 

HELPING: Jade "Red" Wheatley has been helping progress adaptive surfing. He hopes to soon hold an adaptive surf tournament in Newcastle. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

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 the community too. 

But there’s something unique about him...

He’s missing both his legs from below the knee.

Lost them in a construction accident when he was just 19. 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 in Southern California. 

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

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But closer to home, he helps run the annual Amputee Surf Day, which was held at Nobbys beach last week. 

“A friend of mine started it,” Mr Wheatley said. “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 with Ossur (prosthetic company) and organising a yearly event for people to go and enjoy 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 on the 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 water quite a bit,” Wheatley said. 

“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 feel what 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 in the water, Wheatley gives a unique insight. 

“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.”