How Sam Bloom Survived Devastating Injuries To Become World Para Surfing Champion

It was January 2013 and life, as Sam Bloom knew it, was about to change forever.

In a split second, a dream vacation in Thailand with her husband, Cameron, and their children, Rueben, Noah, and Oliver, turned into an unimaginable nightmare.

Bloom fell through a rotten balcony railing, crashing 20 feet onto the concrete below.

She miraculously survived but suffered catastrophic injuries.

Charging

Bloom’s skull was fractured in several places. Both of her lungs ruptured and her spinal cord shattered, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down.

“My life changed in an instant,” Bloom said.

It became the beginning of what was the darkest period of her life and the most challenging for the entire Bloom family.

“As far as I was concerned, my life was over,” Bloom said.

Nine years later, Bloom’s rehabilitation journey has transformed her life from despair and fragility to hope and resilience.

Bloom is a two-time world champion para surfer and the author of Penguin Bloom, an international bestseller that was also made into a Hollywood movie starring Naomi Watts and Andrew Lincoln.

Naomi Watts (left) played Bloom in the 2020 film adaptation of Penguin Bloom.(Photography Cameron Bloom)

Next month, he heads to Oahu to compete in the Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championships.

Featuring elite adaptive surfers from around the world, the event will take place at the famous surf spot of Waikiki, Queens.

“It’s going to be so much fun. I’ve never been to Hawaii,” Bloom said.

For surfing ‘growing every year’

More than 90 surfers with disabilities from 16 countries will compete in seven divisions as they seek to pave the way for para surfing’s inclusion in the Paralympic Games.

“It’s really great. It’s going to be great,” said Bloom.

After surfing’s successful Olympic debut in Tokyo last year, the International Surfing Association (ISA) hopes to see para surfing included in the 2028 Paralympics in Los Angeles after its attempt to feature in Paris in 2024 was unsuccessful. .

“Para surfing is huge and it’s growing every year,” Bloom said.

An Australian para surfer lying on her surfboard while catching a wave.
Surfing has played a crucial role in Bloom’s (right) emotional recovery.(Photography Cameron Bloom)

Bloom is delighted to see more people competing in this sport.

“It’s fantastic and brings so much happiness to people whose lives haven’t turned out as planned,” he said.

Para surfing continues to gain momentum in Australia, with Bloom recently named Female Surfer of the Year at the Australian Surfing Awards.

“It was amazing because it’s the first time Surfing Australia has recognized parasurfing in their awards,” said Bloom.

There are approximately 20,800 Australians living with a spinal cord injury, for which there is currently no cure.

Globally, between 250,000 and 500,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury each year.

Those stats were recently highlighted at the annual Wings for Life World Run, a global event that has been held the first weekend of May since 2014.

Wheelchair runners and participants from around the world take part in a fun run to raise funds and awareness for spinal cord injury research.

Bloom, an ambassador for Wings for Life World Run, recently participated in the Sydney event.

“[Wings for Life] is very important to me and very close to my heart,” Bloom said.

“The best thing about this is that 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to research.”

Bloom’s special bond

Wings have become a symbolic theme for the Blooms.

It was an injured magpie, rescued by her children and affectionately named Penguin, who, in turn, saved Bloom and her family.

Shortly after Bloom returned home from a long hospital stay, grief and despair consumed her.

“I wasn’t in a good state of mind,” Bloom said.

Like Bloom, Penguin was lucky to survive after falling out of his nest.

The two struck up a bond, with one becoming the other’s salvation.

“She was so cute,” said Bloom.

“Penguin brought some much-needed happiness and laughter into our home.”

One for Australian surfer with the boxing kangaroo and Australian flags.
Bloom has represented Australia internationally, winning two world para surfing championships.

Bloom rediscovered her love for the sport and the ocean, winning two national titles in para canoeing, as well as gold at the 2019 and 2020 World Para Surfing Championships.

“I started to get my confidence back and feel like I used to,” Bloom said.

Through Penguin, the para sport, and the constant support of his boys, Bloom realized that “there were still opportunities to do amazing things.”

Her journey of healing and hope, after heartbreak and helplessness, was captured through the lens of her photographer husband, Cameron.

Actor Andrew Lincoln (left) holds a book while sitting next to Sam Bloom (centre) and Cameron Bloom.
Andrew Lincoln (left) pictured with Bloom (center) and husband Cameron.(Photography Cameron Bloom)

Penguin Bloom has now been translated into 14 different languages, most recently Polish, as well as being made into a major film of the same title.

“I got so many messages from people all over the world thanking me that they don’t feel so alone,” Bloom said.

“And that’s been the best thing for me, that maybe you’re making someone else’s life a little bit happier.”

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