RedBull: Surfing champ Sam Bloom wants you to know: “You’re braver than you think”

This story was first published on Redbull.com, please click HERE for the original.

Two-time para surfing world champion Sam Bloom, whose story inspired a hit film, has a powerful message for you about facing life’s challenges.

Written by Trish Medalen
Published on

Sam Bloom is living proof that an ordinary person can do extraordinary things. Eight years ago, the Australian nurse was simply enjoying a happy and active life, raising three sons with her husband Cam, who shares her love of surfing. Today she holds national and world sporting titles. She’s the subject of two books and a movie starring Naomi Watts. And she’s rebounded from dark depression after being paralysed from the chest down.

Not necessarily in that order.

People around the world have discovered how Bloom’s life was shattered when she fell through a faulty lookout railing on a family vacation. She sank into despair and seemed unreachable, but caring for an injured magpie helped her find her way out of the darkness.

Two-time para surfing world champion Sam Bloom pictured surfing at home in Australia.

Para surfing champ Sam Bloom carves it up at her home break © CAMERON BLOOM

While the film based on her story provides many moments of humour and warmth, it doesn’t shy away from the consequences of a devastating injury. Beyond paralysis and nerve pain, the diary-like notes that Bloom shared to aid Watts’s portrayal reveal initial anger, sadness, envy – and guilt.

She describes the one scene that’s still hard for her to relive: “The kids were sick and I could hear them calling out for their dad, but not for me. I remember lying there crying, because I couldn’t jump up and be there for them. Naomi conveys that so well. She’s like, ‘What am I, if I’m not a mum?'”

Also realistic: the movie concludes on an upbeat note, but not a perfect, happy ending. Even now, as Bloom continues her journey, she still longs for her old life, but she’s found a way to carry on in her new one.

You’re braver than you think you are, capable of more courage than you realise. There really is hope, so don’t give up

– Sam Bloom

The resilient Aussie finds herself in the unexpected situation of being an inspiration to people worldwide and she receives countless requests for advice. She emphasises that every situation is different, but willingly shares what has worked for her.

“I want people to realise the power of family, love and nature, and how they can help you get out of a really bad place in your head,” Bloom says.

She continues: “Especially for people with spinal cord injury, I think it helps to find something that you love doing, or a purpose, because when you’re bored, you focus on the negatives.” For Bloom that purpose is sport. She gained strength paddling a kayak and captured a pair of national paracanoe titles before focusing on her first love: surfing. Two World Para Surfing Championship titles later, she’s training hard with an eye toward her third.

Australia's Sam Bloom pictured celebrating after winning the 2018 Para Surfing World Championships in California, USA.

Sam Bloom winning her first World Championship in California in 2018 © CAMERON BLOOM

In the meantime, the athlete says the main thing she hopes people will take away from her story is this: “You’re braver than you think you are, capable of more courage than you realise. There really is hope, so don’t give up.”

Bloom is also an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run, which raises money to find a cure for spinal cord injuries, the vast majority of which – like her own – result from accidents in everyday life. On May 9, Bloom will be participating in this year’s virtual edition, using her wheelchair and the Wings for Life World Run App.“It’s amazing – really good fun and a great vibe,” she says of the Wings for Life World Run.

She’s even planning on starting a team. “With the app, you can take part where you are, but be connected with a team anywhere,” Bloom explains. “Someday they will find a cure, and imagine how big and life-changing that will be for millions of people. Come on!”

To join Sam Bloom and thousands of others running and rolling on May 9, visit wingsforlifeworldrun.com and sign up.

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