If you had the good fortune of watching the Fiji Women’s Pro, you were treated to a string of standout performances by many of the world’s best female surfers in excellent waves. That’s exactly what the World Surf League is hoping to accomplish. But, by including Bethany Hamilton in the contest, we got far more than we bargained for. Hamilton, a wildcard, upset several competitors, including World Number One, Tyler Wright, and registered exceptional performances on the way to her third place finish. And by having the opportunity to watch Bethany Hamilton, we got a dose of true inspiration. Which, at its best, is what sport and competition achieves.
Eleven time world champion Kelly Slater agrees. Slater wrote on his Instagram:
Anyone who isn’t inspired by @bethanyhamilton and her physical attributes after losing her arm to a tiger shark in Kauai some years ago should check their pulse. The hardships she overcomes to perform at the level she does in the ocean is arguably unparalleled in men’s or women’s sport. It’s nice she got a start in the @wsl #FijiPro this week and took down some big names in the process, just losing out in the semis to the eventual winner, @johannedefay. I hope to see her in more events this year and hopefully she can requalify on just the strength of a few good results as a wildcard this year on tour. I think everyone should have a full surf with one arm strapped to their side and attempt not only to paddle out but put themselves in position at heavy spots like Pipe, Jaws, and Cloudbreak, and try to get up on a short board. I’m scared to try it myself and ridiculously impressed with her talents. Congratulations on your third place result at #Cloudbreak, @tavaruaislandresort. Great to watch you surf in those conditions.
The prospect of Hamilton qualifying with a few solid wildcard results is a real one. After her third place finish, she currently sits 19th in the overall rankings, and if she is granted a wildcard into a handful of the remaining events for the year and performs well, it could happen. We anxiously support that. Like Kelly, we like to be inspired.