Bethany shakes up the world tour with run to Fiji semis

It doesn’t seem like it should be possible. There are so many reasons why Bethany Hamilton shouldn’t be able to just hop on the world tour and take down a few of the planet’s best wahine.

But we’re kind of past the point of realistic expectations for Hamilton.

As a WSL wildcard invitee, Hamilton traded Kauai’s sleepy North Shore summer swells for some firing conditions off Fiji’s Tavarua Island. She headed over early to take on Cloudbreak and Restaurants and obviously found a comfort level that carried into the Fiji Women’s Pro.

Facing a less than favorable draw, Hamilton put forth one of, if not the best wildcard performance the women’s world tour has ever seen. Her event concluded in the semifinals for a third-place result, which should allow for further wildcard invitations — if she chooses to accept that proposition.

It didn’t take long for Hamilton to make her presence felt as she took down Tyler Wright in round two. Wright entered the event wearing the gold jersey as the world’s No. 1 wahine. In a Championship Tour career that has now spanned 47 contests, this is only the second time Wright has ever been knocked out in round two.

But when Hamilton found some cover on a quick barrel and then showed commitment on her turns up into the lip, the 9.00 from the judges changed the entire complexion of 2016. Her 16.10 to 14.90 win over Wright opened the door for a new points leader and keeps many other contenders within striking distance.

Not resting on her laurels, Hamilton followed that up with a third-round win against six-time world champ Stephanie Gilmore and France’s Johanne Defay to jump directly into the quarterfinal round.

In the final eight, she took on the surging Nikki Van Dijk, who had won her opening heat and also upset Gilmore in round four. But Hamilton bested the Aussie as each found some sizable Cloudbreak sets and quick barrels.

The semifinals presented a rematch with Defay, who started her scoreline in style by stringing together five wicked turns that resulted in a 9.20 score. That put Hamilton in need of some big numbers, but those opportunities never quite materialized.

Defay put her stamp on the week by going on to top Carissa Moore in the finals for her second career CT win. She faced five elimination heats and won them all, topping Chelsea Tuach, Sage Erickson, Courtney Conlogue, Hamilton and Moore. It bumps Defay up three spots to fourth in the world.

But Conlogue now regains the yellow jersey with a slim points lead over Wright, as Moore creeps closer in third place. Moore is still seeking her first win of 2016, but she has made the semifinals in every contest to remain just 3,700 points out of the top spot.

The level of competition on the women’s world tour just continues to rise and get better. There are no easy outs or opponents to take for granted. For Hamilton to jump back into the world’s most difficult lineups and maneuver her way into the semifinals says so much about her competitiveness and focus, not to mention natural ability. If she elects to accept future invitations, it will only make the Championship Tour better, stronger and more interesting for the rest of us.

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David Simon can be reached at dsimon@thegardenisland.com.

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