Bethany Hamilton: A Star Surfer With Passion, Heart, and Resilience

By Mandi Renfroe
Photos by Noah Hamilton

On the morning of October 31, 2003 a young surfer’s life would change for ever. Bethany Hamilton went for a morning surf at Tunnels Beach on Kauai, Hawaii, the island where she was born, with her friend Alana Blanchard and Alana’s father and brother. At 7:30 am, as Bethany dangled her left arm in the water, a 15-foot tiger shark appeared and swiftly took off her arm underneath the shoulder. Her friends got her out of the water and used a surfboard leash as a tourniquet, shortly before rushing her to Wilcox Memorial Hospital. She lost seventy-percent of her blood that morning and spent seven days in the recovery at the hospital.

What happened to this thirteen-year-old girl was devastating and tragic. But what came from something horrible is inspirational. Less than one month after losing her arm, Bethany returned to the ocean to surf. “My pure love and enjoyment for surfing is what keeps me going! It’s much more than a career; it’s a moving art, a lifestyle; it’s my talent and a place of rest for me. I’m blessed to be able to surf,“ Bethany stated in an interview with our magazine.

Using a custom-made board that was thicker and longer so that it was easier to paddle, she taught herself to swim with just one arm. She soon realized that she had to kick a lot more to make up for her left arm. Before long, she was surfing competitively again. “We all go through rough times. We have those obstacles that seem too large to overcome or that current that you never seem to swim out of. We have to decide what matters most to us – our passions,” Bethany said. “Make a plan to overcome that obstacle, a way to swim out of that current, a plan with all intention to reach your goals! Be positive and find positive people who can help you through it. Forgive others, forgive yourself, and ask God for forgiveness. Oh and don’t make decision when you are emotional – women seem to do that! Be passionate, brave, realistic and go for it!”

Her story spread around the world, and she adopted fans everywhere. She was presented with a special courage award at the Teen Choice Awards in 2004 and won the Best Comeback Athlete ESPY award. Then in 2005, her life-long dream came true and she took first place in the NSSA National Championships. She has appeared on Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Good Morning America, as well as appearing in magazine such as People and Time. And next month her story will hit theaters nationwide in the movie Soul Surfer, starring Carrie Underwood and Helen Hunt. The movie is based on her published book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.

With all that hard work and the rewards that came with it, I asked her when she had felt most accomplished in her life and she answered, “When I’m trusting in God and His plan for my life. When I’m surfing strong. When I have positive thoughts towards God, others and myself! When I’m working hard but playing just as hard! And when I’m loving life!”

So what does courageous mean to Bethany? “To have faith in something you can’t see.“ What many have learned and felt from Bethany’s story is that there should be nothing getting in the way of your dreams, and what may seem like a huge boulder in the road is only the start of something new.

Get the movie, buy the book now!

Visit Bethany Hamilton’s website

About The Author
Mandi Renfroe is 22 years old and has traveled the world with her husband and daughter. She has lived in Korea, Texas and now finally living back home in California. She graduated from Allied University and is working on her first novel.

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