TOP Isle of Wight surfer Matt Harwood played his part in ensuring he and Melissa Reid won gold as she became a double world champion at the 2020 AmpSurf ISA World Para Surfing Championship.

Matt, 42, was coach to Melissa, as well as her eyes and guide, sharing vital tactics, during the four-day event in La Jolla, California, recently.

Isle of Wight County Press: Melissa Reid with Islander, Matt Harwood.Melissa Reid with Islander, Matt Harwood.

Melissa, of Cornwall, is totally blind in her right eye and has limited vision in her left.

“She is an incredible athlete and amazing surfer,” said Matt.

“I worked in the heat stages for her and chose her waves based on my knowledge of her surfing abilities.

“I chose when to put pressure on other surfers and to manage the clock.

“Melissa’s a really good surfer, but given her lack of sight, it makes her just phenomenal.

“It was amazing to help Melissa retain her world title again.”

On social media, delighted Melissa was grateful to Matt in helping her achieve gold.

“Stoked to be a double world champion. I can’t thank everyone enough — especially my eyes, who chose the perfect waves and tactics,” she said.

Matt, who is also chairman of the Isle of Wight Surf Club and the Island’s Surfers Against Sewage representative, also acted as a ‘pusher’ in the assisted prone division for paraplegic surfers, Natasha Davies and Spike Kane, who finished joint fifth — both narrowly missing out on a finals berth.

“Neither athlete can paddle, so my job was to help run the heat for them,” Matt explained.

“I swim them out through the surf and then launch them into the waves they want.

“It’s really strategic and physically really gruelling — 20 minutes of flat out swimming, treading water and getting the guys out through big surf to go.

“I use swim fins to propel me.”

Isle of Wight County Press: Matt Harwood with Natasha Davies.Matt Harwood with Natasha Davies.

With the sport of parasurfing (also known as adaptive surfing) growing year on year, with 40 countries in the mix, competition was strong.

“I love the fact England challenges and beats surfing superpowers like Australia and the United States,” Matt added.

“With surfing included in this year’s Tokyo Olympics, parasurfing could well be included in the Paris 2024 Paralympics.

“It’s my ambition to coach these guys to paralympic medals.”