- Associated Press - Thursday, July 19, 2018

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Surf’s up again for Bethany Hamilton, who’s back to riding waves four months after giving birth to her second son.

Hamilton has earned a wild-card spot in the first Surf Ranch Pro at the World Surf League’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California.

It’s a big step for Hamilton, 28, who has forged a strong surfing career as well as several off-the-water pursuits since losing her left arm to a tiger shark 15 years ago.

“It’s been a beautiful time in my life but I definitely love getting back in the ocean and getting my surf game back on, except this is going to be at the Surf Ranch,” she said in a phone interview during a break from a training session this week.

The Surf Ranch Pro, the eighth stop on the Women’s Championship Tour, will be Sept. 6-9 at the gigantic wave pool that is the brainchild of Kelly Slater. It’s located in California’s Central Valley, some 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Hamilton impressed WSL officials when she recently rode the artificial waves at the Surf Ranch. Her performance at the Fiji Women’s Pro were some of the best by any wild card in recent years, earning a semifinal appearance in 2016 and eliminating eventual WSL Champion Tyler Wright.

Hamilton, who lives in Hawaii with husband Adam and their two boys, said she hasn’t been in a contest since May 2017, before she got pregnant.

She surfed the Surf Ranch for the first time when she was three months pregnant and then again about a month ago.

“I asked the WSL if I could do a postpartum surf trip, please, and I came up here. It’s so incredible and super fun,” she said.

Hamilton said she’s not quite where she wants to be heading into the competition, but has time to focus on getting her legs stronger, which will be critical at the Surf Ranch.

“There are just so many variables in the ocean,” she said. “Not every wave is alike. Sometimes the No. 1 surfer is the one who catches the best waves. With this, every girl competes on the same wave, a 45-second-long wave. Most waves in the ocean average 10 seconds, I guess. So having really fit leg strength and body strength is important so you surf through the wave strong. You get to the end of the wave and your legs drop out from under you. It’s definitely a fitness sort of wave.”

The public got its first look at the Surf Ranch in May during the Founder’s Cup of Surfing.

“One thing that’s really special about this event is the public can come front and center and watch us surf live,” Hamilton said. “It’s pretty unique and special as far as being able to watch your hero surf on a wave right in front of you.”

Hamilton said competing isn’t necessarily her No. 1 focus. She spent the last four years working on a surfing documentary, “Unstoppable,” that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. She hopes to release it next year. She also wrote a coffee-table book and does motivational speaking. Her husband wrote a children’s book.

“I’m really thankful for the life I have,” she said. “So much of life is in your head. So much of it is mental. I’m thankful for the amazing family that supports me.”


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson

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