Re-discovering life’s passion with Sam Bloom

  • January 18, 2021

Resilience and determination

After an accident in 2013 left Sam Bloom paralysed from the waist down, she took it upon herself to slowly get back into the life-long hobbies she had always held most dear. As a self-confessed tomboy and lover of all things sun, salt, sea and sand, it was only fitting that the mother of three returned to the water.  

From competitive kayaking to global surf comps, Sam found a place within the Australian team, competing at the nudie Australian adaptive surfing title. This event aims to not only crown Aussie champions but gather the adaptive surfing community together, to develop the sport at any and all levels. Sam has since won two-world championships amongst a number of additional accomplishments. Here she talks to nudie about her accident, her recovery and that sweet feeling of freedom among the waves.   

  • For those who may not be as familiar with your situation, take us through what happened and how the accident changed your life.

    “In 2013, we took our three boys over to Thailand for a holiday. We had been there for about three or four days when I leant onto a railing, which collapsed, and I fell six metres and broke my back. It was devastating. I spent about seven months in hospital after the accident.” 

  • You’ve been through so much both physically and mentally, what lead you to thinking about getting back into the water?

    “When I was in rehab I would always whinge to people saying how upset I was that I couldn’t surf anymore or ride my bike or play soccer. I grew up on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and had spent my whole life surfing, as both a kid and an adult. It was part of who I am. I’ve always been a tomboy. I would always have a skate or surfboard with me. It was just my thing. So, I eventually thought, maybe I could kayak? It was a bit of a gamechanger for me – being able to do exercise and be back in the water.” 

  • You got into competitive kayaking and were super successful – what made you move on to competitive surfing?

    “It actually took a while. My first summer after the accident my husband Cam took me for a swim at the beach. Our friend was out in the water and was telling me to get on the board. I didn’t want to do it, but he convinced me and pushed me onto a wave. But I still felt like it wasn’t really surfing, you know? I didn’t get back on a board after that till five years later!” 

  • What made you give it a second go?

    “It was actually Noala Wilson, Julian Wilson’s mum. She’s a friend of a friend and out of the blue sent me letter saying how I should get back out there, and I thought, OK, I’m going to do this – and I’m so stoked I did.” 

  • When you’re out on the water or competing, how do you go about catching each wave?

    “There are classifications, so I have assistance in the water because I’m paralysed from my chest down. I can’t really lift up my chest to paddle properly. Cam will get me out and will push me onto a wave. If we are surfing next to a channel I can paddle out if there are no waves crashing on my head. It’s a bit scary, I don’t feel as confident as I used to because if you come off, you just have your arms. It’s so much fun though.” 

  • Speaking of competitions, how was it participating in the nudie Australian adaptive surfing titles?

    “The comps you guys run are unreal! For me the best thing about the competitions is that it’s such a cool community, everyone has a story, everyone has had a different accident or struggle but it’s just the best vibe and energy and you kind of feel normal, which is really nice, because most of the time you feel like the odd one out. You’re part of a team and community and you can just chill. Obviously, everyone wants to win and do their best but it’s just so nice.” 

  • How did you feel when you won the world championships?

    “I was so stoked because I wanted to win for my kids. I wanted to say thank you and show them that yes, it’s been pretty bad with what happened, but you can still have fun and do some pretty awesome things in life if you put your mind to it.” 

  • Do you have any advice to others who might currently be struggling through a tough time?

    “Find something you love. Also, if you have a good support network, only just a few people, it can really help. I’ve been very lucky like that. You just need to find something that gives you a bit of a purpose in life.” 

  • What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

    “I would love to be a three-time world champion, that’s my goal! I do get kind of competitive, in the last worlds, the finals, I don’t even think I caught a wave in the beginning and then we finally got a few and won! It’s also cool to represent your country. It’s such a buzz. I remember the first time I won, and everyone was singing ‘aussie, aussie, aussie’, and it makes you want to cry. You get proud.”