There are countless stories of athletes overcoming obstacles. Everyone has a tale of perseverance. But some are a bit more harrowing than others.
A pair of surfers with unique tales brought those facts to the forefront in different oceans across the globe on Saturday.
Bethany Hamilton’s tale is well-known at this point. That doesn’t make it any less amazing. Hamilton is a wildcard entry for the Women’s Fiji Pro, which completed its first round on Fiji’s Tavarua Island.
Three days shy of her son’s first birthday, Hamilton competed in her second Championship Tour contest since becoming a mother. At the age of just 26, she seems like a senior member on the tour because of everything she’s already gone through and accomplished.
Hamilton didn’t win her first-round heat, which was an upset victory earned by Nikki Van Dijk. She’ll now face off with current world No. 1 Tyler Wright in a second-round elimination matchup. Surpassing both the mental and physical changes in her life has somehow allowed Hamilton to still paddle out with the world’s best.
On the other side of the globe, the same could be said for American Evan Geiselman. Just over six months ago, Geiselman was on Oahu enjoying the North Shore winter swell. On a December day at Pipeline, the 22-year-old pro decided to paddle in and ended up taking a vicious wipeout. He was knocked unconscious and held under for a few set waves. He wasn’t breathing when bodyboarder Andre Botha found him and began giving him CPR right there in the wake of crashing waves.
After recovering in the hospital, Geiselman has physically healed. But he did give an emotional interview to Surfing Magazine in which he said the mental struggle remains, mostly because he realizes how much went right for him to survive that day.
Amongst some of the best competitors in the world, within a surf community he loves, Geiselman reached the final of the Ichinomiya Chiba Open on Saturday. The QS 6,000 contest is one of the biggest events so far in 2016 and the top prize can do a lot to propel a hopeful qualifier onto the world tour.
It’s Geiselman’s best result since a runner-up showing at the Australian Open more than four years ago.
Just being back in the water after what both Hamilton and Geiselman have survived is admirable. Doing so in a competitive atmosphere is remarkable.
Manuel jumps to Round 3 with win
Prior to Hamilton’s appearance, both Malia Manuel and Tatiana Weston-Webb competed against one another in the Fiji Pro’s opening heat. They and Alessa Quizon started the contest with an all-Hawaii showing, which was ultimately won by Manuel.
The Kauai native hammered a left on her final wave to secure an excellent score and move directly into the third round on a 15.67 total.
Sally Fitzgibbons, Van Dijk, Courtney Conlogue, Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore also all won in round one.
Weston-Webb will take on Coco Ho in a second-round elimination matchup. Tati must be a favorite if streaks are any prognosticator. Ho hasn’t reached round three yet this year and Weston-Webb has made the quarterfinals in seven straight contests.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.