One-armed Hamilton through at WSL Pipeline

Murray Wenzel |

Bethany Hamilton booked her spot in the third round of the WSL’s Billabong Pro Pipeline in Hawaii.
Bethany Hamilton booked her spot in the third round of the WSL’s Billabong Pro Pipeline in Hawaii.

Inspirational one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton has progressed to the third round at Hawaii’s daunting Pipeline after replacing Stephanie Gilmore at the 11th hour.

The Hawaii great, who lost her left arm in a shark attack in 2003, was called in to surf the knockout heat with Australian champion Gilmore quarantined after testing positive to COVID-19.

Hamilton, the subject of a 2011 movie Soul Surfer, has remained a regular in competition since the attack but not appeared on the Championship Tour since 2018.

The mother of three made the most of it, pairing two waves within a minute in the final stages of her heat to finish second behind Brisa Hennessy with 8.76 points to knock out teenage star Caroline Marks (3.7).

The incredible scenes came as the Tour celebrated a maiden start at the fame break, historically reserved to the men’s Championship Tour but long the domain of the indomitable local legend Hamilton.

No mercy had been given to Gilmore, who could potentially have surfed on Tuesday (AEDT) after clearing protocols if the competition had been held over.

Officials went ahead with the two elimination heats though, which also saw fellow Tour star Courtney Conlogue knocked out, in smaller conditions than those the men encountered on Sunday’s high-octane season start.

Earlier Australian rookie Molly Picklum (7.73) won her first CT heat, beating compatriot Sally Fitzgibbons (4.90), who needed a 3.40-point wave after the buzzer to relegate Conlogue.

Tyler Wright, who won at Pipeline last year when the event was shifted from it’s usual Honolua Bay location when a social surfer was attacked and killed by a shark, was impressive in winning her heat.

Isabella Nichols (5.50) also won her heat, while fellow Australian and rookie India Robinson (2.94) enjoyed a stress-free passage to the third round with Gilmore a non-starter in her fixture with Wright.

Conditions had simmered after Sunday’s huge swell, but large waves are expected to return later in the tournament window, which stretched until February 10.