Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton of Kauai, who lost her arm in a shark attack on her native island, made an appearance at the Malibu Pro World Championship this weekend.
Stephen Dorman/Special to The Malibu Times
The world’s top female surfers converged on Surfrider Beach this weekend to take part in the inaugural Rip Curl Malibu Pro World Championship. It was the first women’s World Championship Tour stand-alone event to take place on the U.S. mainland in history.
Despite minimal surf in the one-to-two foot range, Megan Abubo of Hawaii defeated Brazil’s Maria ‘Tita’ Tavares in Sunday’s final to take home first-place honors as well as a $10,000 winner’s purse. The victory catapulted Abubo, a 10-year professional, from 15th place to ninth overall in the current WCT standings with two events remaining.
“I want to dedicate this win to my mum up in heaven,” Abubo said during trophy presentations. I’m so happy right now. I also want to thank Rip Curl for investing in women’s surfing and bringing us to a wonderful wave like Malibu. We weren’t blessed with wonderful surf, but that can happen anywhere in the world and we were lucky to get what we got.”
The weekend’s festivities began Thursday with a media launch at Granita Malibu restaurant, with several WCT professionals, including current world No. 1 Sofia Mulanovich, six-time world champion Layne Beachley and Hawaii’s Rochelle Ballard in attendance. Hollywood celebrities Mark Ruffalo (“13 Going on 30”), Jorja Fox (“CSI – Miami”), Chris Pontius (“MTV’s Wildboyz”), Dominic Purcell (“Blade Trinity”), Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman (“Gidget”) and Malibuite Simon Baker (“The Ring 2”) were present as well.
Baker, who moved to Malibu three years ago because, he said, it was a place that most reminded him of his native Australia, also took part in Sunday’s Celebrity Surfbout, which preceded the women’s final. The competition pitted actors against musicians, with the actors, led by Baker and Dean Cain (“Superman”), taking home top honors.
“There’s a community vibe in Malibu which I sort of miss,” Baker said. “It’s far more rural than people would imagine, and it’s really the sense of community that’s the best thing about this city.”
Kohner-Zuckerman also made an appearance at the Celebrity Surfbout, serving as the event’s official patron. In the 1950s Kohner-Zuckerman helped Malibu become the mecca of surfing as the inspiration to the “Gidget” phenomena of the era.
“My relationship with Malibu goes back to when I was three years old,” Kohner-Zuckerman said. “When my parents came over from Europe, Malibu was the sacred spot. This is where Hollywood came and my father, who was a writer, would always say ‘you’ve got to go to Malibu and see the beach.'”
Kohner-Zuckerman is currently working on a documentary about her life and is re-releasing the book “Gidget,” a nickname she received in her youth, which meant small midget.
Thursday’s biggest ovation went to 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton of Kauai. Hamilton made headlines around the world last year when she lost her right arm during a shark attack on her native island. Since the attack, Hamilton has continued her surfing career and was recently named the 2004 ESPY Award winner for Comeback Athlete of the Year as well as the recipient of the 2004 Teen Choice Award for Most Courageous Teen. Presently she is promoting her new book, “Soul Surfer,” which was released Oct. 1.
“I think younger people will enjoy the book,” Hamilton said. “But I think anyone of any age can really enjoy it too.”
On Friday, preliminary contest rounds were held at Leo Carrillo State Beach with 16-year-old Karina Petroni placing first in a field of 16 women. Petroni earned a wildcard birth into the Rip Curl Pro, where she would eventually be eliminated by Mulanovich during Saturday’s third round.
Following the contest on Saturday, Rip Curl hosted a “Slam & Glam” party at Sixteen Fifty in Hollywood. There, a variety of celebrities including Andy Dick (“Old School”) and Duff McKagen (“Guns and Roses,” “Velvet Revolver”) mixed with surfers, musicians, actors and other party goers to help raise awareness for Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe and healthy for people and marine life.