Full Name: Ling Pai
Division: Women AS – VI (Visually Impaired)
Place of Birth: Taiwan
Resides in: Vancouver
Favorite Surf Break: San Onofre
Years of surfing: 6
I am legally blind. I was diagnosed with Dominant Optical Atrophy when I was 14 years old. My optic nerve had started degenerating. I was told my vision would get worse. There was no medication or procedure that would make it better. The only treatment plan was an annual check up to follow the progression. How does a teenage girl navigate through life knowing she would be blind one day? Slowly making adjustments to cope with the waning eyesight. It’s like waiting for impending doom. My least favourite time of the year is the time for my annual eye exam. Imagine knowing you are going to receive really bad news for something you have no control over. Not just once, but every year! It’s not easy. But I am tenacious and I hate giving up. 20 years later, I have no driver’s license but as I mentioned I surf, trail run and backcountry ski. I didn’t start doing these activities until 5 or 6 years ago when my eyesight suddenly declined. My visual acuity dropped from 20/50 to worse than 20/200. That means if someone with 20/20 vision could see a sign 200 feet away, I could only see it if it was 20 feet away. I am color blind and I have a much larger blind spot than someone with normal vision. Glasses or contact lenses do not make it better. This depressing diagnosis meant I had officially become legally blind. It wasn’t something I could ignore anymore. I used to hate telling people about my eyes. Too embarrassed to ask for help I became pretty good at hiding it. I often wore white, not because I liked the color but because I was 80% sure it was white when I bought it. Memorizing restaurant menus was key. I pretended to read them when I got to the restaurant. I couldn’t see a thing! Learning new sports meant coming clean and admitting I couldn’t see so people would help me. I started skiing by signing up with the Whistler Adaptive Sport Program. My best friend knew how much I love the mountains so she offered to guide me on trail runs. I would work hard and save up to pay for surf camps so I wouldn’t be alone in the water. Learning to live with a disability is a long process. For me, accepting the fact that I have a visual impairment was a big step. When I did, it changed me. I started being proud of myself and my capabilities. I would proudly declare my legally blind status when I met people so they wouldn’t be offended when I didn’t say hi the next time they saw me on the street. I took my first surfing lesson as a tourist in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Nico pushed me into my first wave. I rode that wave and the next 15 waves all the way to the beach. I felt free! I was so happy! Nico said to me “You know you are a surfer now. You gotta keep surfing!” I discovered my passion for surfing that day. My proud declaration during a chance meeting with another adaptive athlete got me connected with the Canadian Surfing Association. I am proud to be on the Canadian Adaptive Surfing team as a Visually Impaired Surfer. I am so excited for this life to push me to learn, laugh and cry. My war wounds make me proud. They are the stories that are etched in my skin. Paddle hard!
I enjoy trail running and skiing. I participate in both sports with my friends as guides. I competed in the Coast Mountain Trail Series Sky Pilot 25km trail run in Squamish this year. It is tough to get to a surf break from Vancouver. I trade it in for mountain time to calm my soul.
US Open Adaptive Surfing Championships