The World Reacts To Bethany Hamilton’s Fiji Pro Performance
“Honestly, can someone please tell me how she does it?”
There is no precedent for it and it’s tough to find anyone who could make sense of it. Hawaiian shark attack survivor, Bethany Hamilton, achieved one of the great feats in the history of sport during the 2016 Fiji Women’s Pro, beating several of the world’s best able-bodied female surfers on her way to a third place… despite only having one arm.
The Huffington Post, ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, Sunshine Coast Daily, Daily Mail, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and way more plastered headlines like “Tyler Wright eliminated by one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton”, “Surfing’s greatest ever story”, and “One-armed surfer topples Australians at Fiji Pro”. Clearly, a hit with the mainstream.
Here’s what some of those in the World Tour realm thought of Beth’s performance:
11-time World Champ, Kelly Slater (via 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.”
WSL Women’s Commissioner and former World Tour competitor, Jessi Miley-Dyer:
“I’ve really wanted to give her this wildcard for a long time but she’s been super busy. She had a baby and then went in the Amazing Race two years ago around this time (of the event). I met her when she was 12 and I was 15 and we rode for Rip Curl together, so we’ve been close friends for a long time. We surfed a lot of trips on reef breaks, so I expected her to do well in Fiji because I know how well she surfs reefs, all around really, but especially in heavy reef breaks. That’s her thing.
“Bethany has always been really strong, she’s always done a lot of fitness work and core exercises so the thing that’s always impressed me is how all-round strong she is. She’s always putting out clips where she’s doing crazy stuff, like that air reverse she did, and her big wave accomplishments as well. All I wanted her to do was show everyone how well she surfs in these kind of waves, ‘cos I knew she’d blow people away. For all us women around the tour who have surfed a lot with her, we all know how much of a freak she is, so I’m super stoked to see that on the tour and it’s always good to throw a cat amongst the pigeons with the world title race. She’s really shaken the whole leader board up.”
Nikki Van Dijk, Women’s World Tour competitor, and Bethany’s quarterfinal opponent:
“Oh my gosh it was amazing. It’s hard to comprehend. I’ve had a couple heats against her out here, and it’s weird to say because it’s a contest, but I’m so inspired by her even when I’m out there competing, like, just, gosh, how does she do it? I’d keep turning around looking at her, watching her and how she does everything, she’s literally my number one hero. It’s amazing and really hard to explain ‘cos you want to win the heat but I’m so happy to be out there with Bethany.
“Honestly, can someone please tell me how she does it? ‘Cos I have no idea. One set came through where I paddled wide and she got it on the head. I was turning around kinda worried whether she’s gonna be okay, but she pops up here and pops up there, she’s so confident out there. She knows exactly what’s going on. Watching her getting on the ski, getting on and off the boat, everything, she just takes it all in her stride. Tobias (her son) was here, she’s a great mother. I want her on tour all the time, she brings the best energy. I asked her, please can she be on tour with us all the time!”
Men’s World Tour Competitor, Ace Buchan:
“It was so sick! I was just watching the comp at the hotel and you think about other sports and I can’t think of another where an athlete who has had that kind of hindrance is competing against able-bodied athletes at such a high level. I started to think about what I did, and then thought about doing it with one arm and I can’t wrap my head around it!
“Obviously she surfed before she lost her arm, but now she uses that back shoulder really well even though there’s no limb attached. Technique-wise she’s really sound. The way she generates power, I can relate to because she’s a goofy, and the mechanics of it are really good. She’s such a strong girl, the gouges she was doing were mean. She did one just after her heat and it was like, wow. She probably would have won the event if it was a bit bigger. She looked really comfortable in the barrel. I’m really blown away.”
Watch: Torrey Meister’s Gunslinging SEOTY Entry
A digital collage of Backdoor mutants, Portuguese slabs, and of course, bull-riding.
Guess Who Else Just Got Invited To The Vans Pipe Masters
3 more withdrawals, and 3 more exciting replacements.
‘Buying Double Cheeseburgers, Acting Like He’s Hit Some Sections Today’
RAGE 400 drops ft Noz, Chun, Creed, Vinny, Jel, Wado + others!
What’s Happening To Orange County’s Sand, And Is It Worsening The Waves At Lowers?
Read this to upgrade your understanding of your local beach break and coastal environment.
Here Are The 15 People Who Qualified For The 2023 CT
After seven events and much groveling, 10 men and 5 women will officially be CT…
An Ode To Aussie Chick Pros From The Nineties
A celebration of stoicism, resilience, grit, core lordship, and unconditional love.
Update: John John Flushes Everyone Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl
And the CT qualifications for 2023 are set.
Riaru Ito Is Cooler Than His Cucumber Garden
Meet our passion pick for the Vans Pipe Masters.
Unlocked: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montes, And Al Cleland Jr In ‘Saturn’
Quik’s new 20-minute surf film is so good you’ll want to burn a DVD of…
How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 4
The energy drinks are here. They’ve got millions of dollars, and they want your head.
‘Saturn’ Orbits Into Southern California
Quiksilver's newest film made landfall in Encinitas, and we were there to document the occasion.
The Vans Triple Crown Of Surfing Returns In 2023
Can anyone beat John Florence and Carissa Moore in a three-week window?
What Will Airs Look Like In 10 Years?
The final installment of our editorial exploration into the nuances of airborne surfing.
Can A South African Cavern Queen With No Pipeline Experience Do Well At The Vans Pipe Masters?
Sophie Bell will have a steep learning curve in Hawaii.
After Years Of Tragic Shark Attacks, Surf Competition Returns To Reunion Island — And A CT Event Could Follow
"We compete at J-Bay and Margarets where there's the same problem." -Johanne Defay
Sharing Tubes And Hummus In The Middle East’s Surfing Jewel: Israel
No Contest does Tel Aviv!