'I'm Stoked': Aussie Legend Sam Bloom Crowned World Surfing Champion
From the water, Sam Bloom and her husband Cameron couldn't hear what was happening onshore.
As they paddled through the cold surf in California to the loud chants of 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi', things soon became clear.
Supported by her husband, Sam was grinning from ear to ear.
"It was the best feeling," she told 10 daily from her hotel room in La Jolla on Monday.
She had just been crowned world champion, in her class of adaptive surfing for competitors with varying levels of physical impairment.
"It makes me so happy. I feel a little bit more like myself."
Growing up on Sydney's northern beaches, Sam's life has always revolved around the ocean. It's a passion she shares with Cameron, who has been surfing since he was 12 years old -- and one they have passed onto their three sons.
But she never thought she'd surf again, after a horror accident that left her a paraplegic.
It was 2013, and the Blooms were on their first family holiday in Thailand when Sam leaned onto a rotten railing. It collapsed, and Sam fell metres onto a tiled floor below, fracturing her skull and shattering her spine.
The accident brought devastation to her family, and Sam's journey to recovery hit some awful lows.
Suffering ongoing and intense neurological pain with a spinal cord injury, she took up kayaking to fill the void of the athletic, adventurous life she once had.
And with unwavering support from her husband, Sam got back on her board last December.
It didn't take her long to qualify for the World Adaptive Surfing Championship in California, where she won the World Title for Australia in the Women's Division and bronze in the Open Division.
"It's been a really exciting week for all of us," said Cam.
"Having the opportunity to get back in the water with so many people who were helping each other was really special."
The fact that Sam surfed better this week was phenomenal, but the whole competition has been a beautiful experience.
It also brought its challenges. After taking a nasty tumble while training at home at Bungan Beach, Sam's entry was reclassified by the International Surfing Association a few days out, meaning she couldn't have help in the water.
But this was soon overturned,
"Cam is exhausted!" laughs Sam.
"He is the one who has to swim me out and get me onto the board ... I think he’s looking forward to a proper holiday!"
'You're not alone'
Over the years, Sam and Cameron's story of hope and recovery has resonated with people across the globe -- helped along by a little magpie called Penguin.
During Sam's recovery, the orphaned animal was found lying injured on the grass after surviving a terrible fall.
The bird soon became her lifesaver, inspiring a book by Cameron and New York Times bestselling author Bradley Trevor Grieve.
"If it wasn't for Penguin, Sam may not be here to share this story," he earlier told 10 daily.
Throughout her recovery, Sam says she has only wanted to help others feel less alone.
"Sam has just got on with her life as best as she can with the love and support from her family. I think a lot of people resonate with that," said Cameron.
"And Penguin brings the cute factor!"
Sam will be portrayed by Aussie actress Naomi Watts in a Hollywood biopic next year.
"It's pretty cool," she told Network 10's Sandra Sully last month.
"All I hope is that they keep it real and honest."
For now, the Blooms are looking forward to some family time.
"Sam missed out on the lifestyle that we were looking forward to with the kids after her accident. Now we can live that with the kids again," said Cameron.
It won't be long before she is home again and back on her board.
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