Surfer Delphine may be the most inspiring women in the world.
The girls on the women’s WSL tour think so! Delphine’s story is a testament to the power of having a passion, and how that passion will see you through the toughest of times.
It is an absolute honour to tell Delphine’s story here on Still Stoked. While writing this I had tears fill my eyes on more than one occasion. I hope reading her story inspires you to be strong during the toughest of times. To maintain your passions, and to live an authentic life, true to what makes you happy. Delphine is a warrior-ess and I can’t even imagine a day in her shoes. What I can imagine is the hundreds of people that will be inspired by her strength, determination, and love of surfing. Thank you for sharing your story Delphine – Alexa x
Just wanna thank everyone so much for their support. You guys have no idea how much it means to me and help me with this fight 💪🏽! I’ll do everthing to surf again and the day I’ll make it… the first wave will be yours 🏄🏾💜👍🏽 🇨🇭 📷by Micael Rio @themermaidsocietyonline @terredesurf @girlsurfnetwork @chicksticksgirl @wsl @roxy @micaelrio @xococoho @tylerwright @courtneyconlogue @stephaniegilmore @biancabuitendag @alessaquizon @lakeypeterson @johannedefay @ub_clothing @surffm #keepfighting #disease #hope #roxy #wslfamily #wsl #cocoho #tylerwright #courtneyconlogue #stephaniegilmore #biancabuitendag #alessaquizon #lakeypeterson #johannedefay #ubclothing #goldcoast #samsunggalaxy #signedjersey #honor #passion #inspiration #surfertoday #switzerland #swisssurfer #surf #surfing #thankyou
For the love of surfing – Delphine Besson
Not every young girl got their life-direction from Tony the Tiger on the side of a Kellogg’s cornflake box. But Delphine is no ordinary girl!
As a child, she was afraid of the water. Maybe it was her Sri Lankan roots, or that she was from Switzerland, but overcoming that challenge came easily despite limited exposure to the oceans. Of course, she name means Dolphin, so a path in the water was most likely destined to be. Those early challenges held her in good stead for the biggest task that would come later in life. One that would disrupt the one value she cherished surfing for, her freedom.
Multiple trips to Hawaii later, and a top turn that would make most of the beach jealous, Delphine was becoming quite the accomplished surfer. Watching all those video parts and reading all the magazines had paid off. Her dream of surfing like Tony The Tiger, on that cereal box, had come true. Delphine was a riper surfer with a surf trips to distant lands all within her grasp.
Fast-forward to the start of summer 2014 and something was different. Her muscles were shaking all the time. Doing everyday movements became harder and the simple task of cutting her food required help and support from friends and family. Energy levels began to plummet, balancing became difficult, coordinating her body in space; all of these things that were once second nature, became an uphill battle. During that first meeting with the specialist, all Delphine asked was if she could surf again.
And surf she did. Being in the water had this inexplicable calming effect on her body and her muscles. But the doctors couldn’t explain what was causing her loss of motor control. The closest diagnosis they gave her in the early days was a condition called ataxia cerebellar, with an early onset of Parkinson’s disease. This has later been disputed and re-diagnosed as later developments involving her esophagus challenged what they knew of the first diagnosis. Doctors later settled on her condition being a Neurological Functional Disorder, also coined ‘The Big Black Hole‘ as there is lots of debate as to what causes it.
For the first 6-months, Delphine remained in a state of uncertainty, not knowing if she was going to live or die. Life as she knew it was going to have to change.
#Repost @jessicawirth.ch with @repostapp ・・・ Those two ladies inspire me a lot. Bianca Buitendag through her faith and how she is living it out in the competitive world of surfing and Delphine Besson who is one of the bravest women I ever met. A couple of weeks back I was able to talk to Delphine for WaveupMag and I’m super stoked to share her story in #7 that will be out soon. #theloveofsurfing #stoke #sharingstories #sisterhood #gettinginspired #beautifullives #waveupmag 📷: Delphine Besson. When you are just yourself and inspire people … thank you @jessicawirth.ch and @waveup_ch #biancabuitendag #surfergirls #gratefull #inspiration #inspiring #surfing #surf #switzerland #waveupmag #france #hossegor #roxypro
Learning to use her body again and manage both the pain and the lack of muscle control was Delphine’s biggest challenge. She never gave up because surfing was the goal and that’s all she wanted to do. Bethany Hamilton was unsurprisingly a huge inspiration, “I don’t need easy, I just need possible” was a constant mantra. While Bethany was crowd-funding for her movie Unstoppable, Delphine’s friends contacted her to tell her about Delphine’s condition. Bethany kindly recorded a video for Delphine that her friends gave her on her first birthday, with the disease. Despite not even being able to walk, Bethany’s message gave her the inspiration and drive she needed.
It wasn’t just Bethany that sent her messages of support. Sally Fitzgibbons also sent her video messages. Bianca Buitentag stayed in contact and got a trophy made for her, for her courage and a jersey with her name on the back, signed by all the girls. They gave her a VIP pass for the RoxyPro in France which she attended twice, but sadly last year, she wasn’t in good enough health. Bianca continued to send her videos to make her feel like she was there. The surfing community and the top ladies of the WSL world tour make her feel like she is a part of the family. It meant the world to her.
Aaaah omg ! Beautiful surprise this morning from @sally_fitz ! Thank you SO much ! I am truly humbled by your support ! Congratulations for your amazing season 🏆🏄🏼! #sallyfitzgibbons #prosurfer #surfergirl #surffamily #birthday #thankyou #keepfighting #nevergiveup #surprise #message #wsl #targetmauipro #maui #hawaii
Surfing soothes me… It’s always been a kind of ZEN experience for me… The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, limitless, and just … awesome! The rest of the world just disappears for me when I’m on a wave 🌊 #swisssurfer #surfer #surfergirl #love #passion #surf #sport #zen #ocean #beach #sand #france #wsl #maudlecar #surfboard #peace #peaceful #experience #dream #nevergiveup #liveyourdreams #traveller #travelling #travel
After testing a few treatments, they found one that had good results and it stopped her shakes. This opened up a world of opportunities and she tried her hand at wakesurfing again. With a lot of perseverance, she was able to surf the wake, not like she did previously but it was a huge win (the first step was learning to swim again). Just as she was starting to walk again, her disease took a turn for the worst and the shakes returned. With so much of her body’s energy spent on shaking, she was exhausted and spent most days in bed sleeping.
Surfing is the drive and strength that keeps Delphine pushing forward. The love from the surf community, her friends and of course the beautiful generosity of the professional women surfers who gave her gifts of joy with their videos and messages. Not one to give up, Delphine recently started indoor sky-diving. She gets the same feeling of freedom that she did from surfing. She needed to adjust to new movement but she is getting it! She wants to compete at the Swiss Championship next year (YES!).
Recently the tables have turned. The darkest twist was losing control of her esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach). Not being able to manage the pass of food to her stomach meannt Delphine had to receive nutrients assistance from a tube down her throat. The tube remains a permanent fixture, visible for all to see (alongside the shakes in her right hand). When having to travel, the tube is attached to a food source in a backpack. Those ill-educated, suspect she is a drug addict which hurts her confidence but can not dampen her spirit. Not one to take no for an answer, Delphine has made sure she is allowed to wakesurf with the tube still lodged in her throat, despite the fear it could move or dislodge. Even though she has lost a lot of weight, she is still making her indoor-skydive training and dreams of surfing again are never far off her mind.
Delphine’s story is a testament to the power of passion and how that passion will see you through the toughest of times. It is also a great reminder of how your individual actions, empathy, and kindness to others can manifest a deal of joy to others. Just like those video messages and actions from Bethany, Sally, Bianca, The WSL, and even world-renowned explorer Mike Horn, brought joy to Delphine.
From Alexa at Still Stoked and all of our readers, I’m honoured to be able to share Delphine’s story. There is no doubt in my mind that Delphine’s love of surfing and fierce passion to get back in the water is what is getting her through. We wish you the strongest of recoveries, full of love and laughter. I will dedicate my next best wave to you girl. You got this xx
Please leave a message to Delphine below or connect with her on her Instagram @delbess
Thank you to Patrick who helped put together this piece on Delphine, and all of her friends that are magicians in their support and efforts to bring so much joy to their very special human ♡ x