As she continues to check off boxes, we continue adding superlatives to her feats. Another is on the horizon as Bethany Hamilton has been invited to participate as a wild card in the first-ever Surf Ranch Pro, Sept. 6-9 in Leemore, Calif.
This will be the first competitive event for Hamilton since she gave birth to her second child, Wesley, back in March. But a lack of time in the lineup has not been an issue for Hamilton in the past as she has been one of the most successful wild cards when called upon in recent years. She has also shown to be one of the fiercest wahine in any lineup, charging some serious waves while pregnant and also following the birth of her first son.
The Surf Ranch Pro event is going to be more like a festival than just your typical stop on the Championship Tour. Not to say that there isn’t something of a party atmosphere at many of the CT venues, but this inaugural event has been in the works for some time, and Kelly Slater and company are certainly hoping to showcase everything they can to make it a memorable and grandiose week. Bringing Hamilton into the mix only adds to that, as she remains one of the sport’s most recognizable and beloved stars.
Hamilton has surfed Fiji the past two seasons, reaching the semifinals in 2016 and winning her opening heat for a ninth-place result in 2017. Her strength remains in waves of consequence and hopefully she’ll be able to show that ferocity with some barrels at the ranch. She has been over there recently and was reportedly incredible in the tube, so there is lots of potential for upsets and impact to the world title race with Hamilton in the mix.
I would actually love to see Bethany take on the field in an open-water setting where her ocean prowess can be more on display. What has set her apart of late is that sheer fearlessness and a desire to take on the biggest sets the ocean can provide. The controlled environment of the ranch will give her a great chance to show her amazing technique, but less of that grit and determination that have come through in competition and free surfs.
Nonetheless, it will be fantastic to see Hamilton in a jersey, once again. This will mark her ninth career CT appearance and she’ll be a major obstacle for Stephanie Gilmore or Lakey Peterson to avoid, if the standings hold until that time. Both competitors will have some extra incentive to win their opening heats, thus avoiding a potential head-to-head showdown with Hamilton in round two.
But beyond the CT ramifications, the greater story is always just what Hamilton represents when she continues to do what most view as impossible. Anything and everything that has been set in front of her throughout her life has been nothing more than a temporary setback or detour, not a hindrance. Including that spirit at this historic contest is a great decision and her presence brings validation, excitement and mass appeal, as well as some justifiable trepidation amongst her peers.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.