For the first time, as part of the WSL's Rising Tides program, the Nissan Super Girl Pro hosted six truly inspirational young women in a heat exclusively for adaptive surfers.
Sixteen-year-old Oliva Stone, from Manheim, Pennsylvania, came away with a very special win in Oceanside, California. A distinguished member of the United States Adaptive National Team, Stone is a congenital bilateral above-the-elbow amputee. She grew up playing sports, including soccer and target shooting.
A couple of years ago she found surfing when she participated in Bethany Hamilton's Beautifully Flawed surf camp in Del Mar, California.
Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark incident in 2003 and has since become a pioneer and vocal advocate for adaptive surfing, was in Oceanside this year competing in the main event of the Super Girl Pro and was on hand to cheer on Stone and the other ladies in the adaptive heat.
"It's such an amazing idea to have an adaptive heat, and these girls are passionate surfers that love riding waves, and they're only going to get more and more progressive," said Hamilton. "To me it's just amazing to meet them and help give them an opportunity and platform to shine. They're amazing individuals themselves. I loved watching it."
"It was awesome to be in the water with all of my friends and have a great time and just do what we love," said Stone after her victory.
Adaptive surfing continues to grow in visibility thanks to surfers like Hamilton and Stone, as well as 11-year-old Faith Lennox, who finished runner-up, Retired USMC Captain Sarah Bettencourt, who rounded out the podium in third, and numerous others.
"It's a pretty small community, adaptive surfing, so it was really cool to be out there together, catching waves together, cheering each other on," said Bettencourt.
Adaptive surfing has been more visible and popular in recent years thanks to increased exposure, more participation, as well as support from the surfing community at large.
In 2015, the first ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship was held in La Jolla, California. That inaugural event included 69 competitors from 18 nations. In 2018, the World Adaptive Surfing Championship featured 120 athletes from 24 nations.